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ALPB => Your Turn => Topic started by: Brian Stoffregen on July 23, 2007, 07:27:56 PM

Title: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 23, 2007, 07:27:56 PM
I've just finished reading Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, by Marcus Borg. I want to present what he says about the emerging paradigm concerning the writing of the gospels. Quotes and pages numbers come from his book.

"The foundation is a way of seeing the gospels that has emerged since the Enlightenment. In a sentence, the gospels are products of early Christian communities in the last third of the first century. This short sentence carries a freight of meaning.

"First, it has a negative corollary: the gospels are not a direct divine product, as notions of biblical inerrancy suppose. Rather, as documents written within early Christian communities, they are human products. They tell us how our spiritual ancestors in these communities saw Jesus and his significance.

"Second, as documents written in the last third of the first century, they are the result of a developing tradition. During the decades between Jesus's historical life and the writing of the gospels, the traditions about Jesus developed. This is not a supposition, but demonstrated from the gospels themselves, as I soon illustrate. Thus the gospels are not simply historical accounts of Jesus's life. Rather, they tell us how Jesus's followers told and proclaimed his story several decades after his death.

"Third, calling them community products means that the gospels were written from within and for early Christian communities. Of course, they were written by individuals, but these individuals were not 'authors' in the modern sense of the term. Modern authors most commonly write for people they don't know, and they seek to be original and creative. But the individuals who wrote the gospels were crystallizing into writing their community's traditions about Jesus as they had developed in the decades since his death. They proclaimed the significance Jesus had come to have in these communities as the first century wound to its end." (pp. 28-29, italics in original)

To phrase these in different ways, as he does later in his book, although these words are mine.

(1a) The gospels are stories of Jesus remembered. They are not eye-witness accounts. No one had a notebook and wrote down what Jesus said and did as he spoke and acted. We do not have verbatims.  In fact, for the most part, we have Greek translations of Jesus' Aramaic words. Rather, for about 20 years, disciples remembered and told what Jesus said and did. It is possible that around 50 AD some of these rembrances about Jesus were written down in documents that became sources for the canonical gospels. It was another 15-20 years (some 35-40 years after Jesus' death and resurrection) that the remembrances of Jesus' words and actions became the first canonical gospel, known as Mark. Another 15-30 years passed before the remembrances were written as Luke, Matthew, and John.

(1b) The gospels are stories of Jesus remembered after Easter. When the believers remembered what Jesus had said and did, they were looking back through the lenses of his death and resurrection. (I'm not sure that I would make this as significant as Borg does, but I agree with him that it is significant.) The lenses of the death and resurrection colors the way the people remembered the pre-Easter Jesus.

2. What they remembered, told, and eventually wrote down was meant to be understood as more than just historical, literal, or factual. In a sense, all the words and events in the gospels need to be understood as "parables". Their importance is in their meaning(s), not whether or not the event actually happened. Going a step further, seeking to prove the historical facts of a story, may hinder the discovery of the "more-than-literal" and "more-than-factual" meaning that is intended by the rembrances. For example, if a guide points out the exact spot on the Jerusalem to Jericho road where the man was robbed, beat up and left for dead, where a Samaritan eventually attended to his needs, does that help us understand the meaning of the parable? Is such a historical detail even relevant to understanding the meaning of the story? I think not.

When Mark tells us the story of Jesus healing a blind man in Bethsaida (8:22-26) -- the only healing of Jesus that required two touches -- the meaning of that story for Mark, especially within the broader context of 8:22-10:52, which ends with Jesus healing another man of blindness -- is about the struggle all disciples have of seeing (and following) the way of Jesus. Peter struggled with it in this section. He, saw the way only partially. He confessed Jesus as the Messiah, yet rebuked him when he said his way would take him to death. It's in this section that the demon-possessed boy's father confesses, "I believe. Help my unbelief." He believes and he doesn't believe, just like that first blind man could see and yet couldn't see. I know that it is a parable of my life of faith. I have been touched by Jesus. I see and understand the way of Jesus; and yet, it is often unclear, fuzzy, so I continue to need subsequent touches by Jesus to be able to see more clearly so as to follow Jesus on the way to the cross.

Did Jesus heal blind people? Most probably. Does Mark remember these stories decades after they happened just to tell us that Jesus could heal a blind person? I think, as Borg does, that Mark intends meanings that go beyond the historical and literal events. As such, they are like parables. (Borg uses the term "metaphor" for understanding the stories as more-than-historical and more-than-literal.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 23, 2007, 07:41:26 PM
I've just finished reading Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary, by Marcus Borg. I want to present what he says about the emerging paradigm concerning the writing of the gospels. Quotes and pages numbers come from his book.

"The foundation is a way of seeing the gospels that has emerged since the Enlightenment. In a sentence, the gospels are products of early Christian communities in the last third of the first century. This short sentence carries a freight of meaning. . .
Marcus Borg is a member of the Jesus Seminar.  His analysis is what one would expect from that group.  Now, for the opposing side, check out the following recent book:  Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, by Dr. Richard Bauckham, published by Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI,  2006. 

Dr, Bauckman is  a Professor of New Testament studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  In this book, Bauckham relies on internal literary evidence and recent developments in the understanding of oral traditions, the contemporary study of memory and cognitive psychology.  This book challenges its readers to end the classical division between "the historical Jesus" amd "the Christ of faith" and suggests they be replaced by "the Jesus of Testimony" as presented by the Gospels.  In this, his conclusions are similar to those of Pope Benedict XVI.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 23, 2007, 08:08:28 PM
Dr, Bauckman is  a Professor of New Testament studies and Bishop Wardlaw Professor at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.  In this book, Bauckham relies on internal literary evidence and recent developments in the understanding of oral traditions, the contemporary study of memory and cognitive psychology.  This book challenges its readers to end the classical division between "the historical Jesus" amd "the Christ of faith" and suggests they be replaced by "the Jesus of Testimony" as presented by the Gospels.  In this, his conclusions are similar to those of Pope Benedict XVI.
From your short description, it isn't necessarily in conflict with Borg. They seem to support the idea that the gospels are "Jesus remembered" and that, as I've read from others, in oral cultures, they were able to remember more accurately than we do.

Borg, at least in the book I read, makes a different division: His is between the pre-Easter Jesus and the post-Easter Jesus. (Both could be seen as the historical Jesus.) He argues that the resurrection of Jesus resulted in beliefs about Jesus that weren't present prior to the resurrection. We do know from the Gospels and Acts, the Resurrection of Jesus caused a change in the behavior of the disciples. From cowards who ran away when he was arrested and hid behind locked doors, they became a force willing to face death to continue proclaiming Jesus to the world no matter what.

However, Borg starts his section on the post-Easter Jesus with the early hymn Paul quotes in Philippians 2:5-11, He argues from that statement that the confession "Jesus Christ is Lord" became a belief after the resurrection, and more than just being a statement about Jesus, it was also an anti-imperial statement. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not, even though the Roman coins said that Caesar was God and Lord. Even though the Romans had the power to put Jesus to death, Jesus was vidicated by God through the resurrection. Did the disciples believe God was more powerful than the Roman emperors and government before the resurrection? The reports of the actions in the Garden of Gethsemane would suggest that they didn't believe that God was more powerful. How difficult and important was it for them to keep this belief throughout the Roman-Jewish wars, when the Jews lost; or during times of the persecution of Christians especially under Nero? I don't think that the pre-Easter Jesus had instilled that great of faith and commitment in his followers. There was something about the resurrection that made a difference in the disciples. They saw and believed in Jesus in a new way.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 23, 2007, 08:16:40 PM
From your short description, it isn't necessarily in conflict with Borg. They seem to support the idea that the gospels are "Jesus remembered" and that, as I've read from others, in oral cultures, they were able to remember more accurately than we do.

Borg, at least in the book I read, makes a different division: His is between the pre-Easter Jesus and the post-Easter Jesus. (Both could be seen as the historical Jesus.) He argues that the resurrection of Jesus resulted in beliefs about Jesus that weren't present prior to the resurrection. We do know from the Gospels and Acts, the Resurrection of Jesus caused a change in the behavior of the disciples. From cowards who ran away when he was arrested and hid behind locked doors, they became a force willing to face death to continue proclaiming Jesus to the world no matter what.

However, Borg starts his section on the post-Easter Jesus with the early hymn Paul quotes in Philippians 2:5-11, He argues from that statement that the confession "Jesus Christ is Lord" became a belief after the resurrection, and more than just being a statement about Jesus, it was also an anti-imperial statement. If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not, even though the Roman coins said that Caesar was God and Lord. Even though the Romans had the power to put Jesus to death, Jesus was vidicated by God through the resurrection. Did the disciples believe God was more powerful than the Roman emperors and government before the resurrection? The reports of the actions in the Garden of Gethsemane would suggest that they didn't believe that God was more powerful. How difficult and important was it for them to keep this belief throughout the Roman-Jewish wars, when the Jews lost; or during times of the persecution of Christians especially under Nero? I don't think that the pre-Easter Jesus had instilled that great of faith and commitment in his followers. There was something about the resurrection that made a difference in the disciples. They saw and believed in Jesus in a new way.
Interesting.  But Bauckman disagrees with the difference between the eyewitness accounts of the pre and post-Easter Jesus.  He holds that the eyewitnesses reported what they saw rather than distant memories or memories interpreted.  He holds that the Jesus presented in the NT is true as reported because they are eyewitness reports of historical events (including the supernatural ones.)  You will need to read the book. 

Forensically - in court, dealing with eyewitnesss accounts is a matter of the jury weighing the credibility of the eyewitnesses and their accounts.  The Prosecutor (typically it is the Prosecutor) will be trying to get the eyewitness' accounts accepted; the Defense will be trying to impeach (discredit) the eyewitnesses.  That is where Dr. Bauckman leaves us with "the Jesus of the eyewitnesses."  We (the Jury) have to decide just how reliable the eyewitmesses are.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 23, 2007, 08:42:41 PM
Interesting.  But Bauckman disagrees with the difference between the eyewitness accounts of the pre and post-Easter Jesus.  He holds that the eyewitnesses reported what they saw rather than distant memories or memories interpreted.  He holds that the Jesus presented in the NT is true as reported because they are eyewitness reports of historical events (including the supernatural ones.)  You will need to read the book. 
I plan to get the book. However, there are reports of events, like in Pilate's quarters, where there were no believers. Unless one of the guards wee converted, it's hard to know how the reports of those private events became public.

From Borg's position, and I would agree, he would state and he does in the book, "believe whatever you want about whether the story happened this way -- now let's talk about what the story means" (p. 280). If someone believes that we have a eyewitness account of Jesus and Peter walking on the water, fine. What does the story mean? Why did the eyewitnesses remember and retell this story? Why does Matthew include it in his story of Jesus? (Why is Peter's walking lacking in the other gospels?)

I chose this supernatural event because Borg uses it (Matthew 14:28-31) to contrast the two different approaches.

It is again illuminating to contrast a literal-factual reading with a metaphorical reading. The first emphasizes that this really happened. Jesus really walked on the sea, and so did Peter, until he became afraid, and then he sank. Read literally, what does this mean? Is it simply a report of a remarkable and unrepeatable incident? Or does it also mean that we can literally walk on water if only we're not afraid and have enough faith in Jesus? Is this the point of the story? That we can walk on water?

Reading it as a metaphorical narrative yields a different emphasis. It is a story about fear and faith. When Peter became afraid, he sank, and his fear is named as "little faith." So it is. With little faith, we sink. But with faith, we stay afloat even in the midst of darkness, storm, and peril. As the nineteenth-century Danish theologian and philosopher S¢ren Kierkegaard defined faith, faith is like floating in seventy thousand fathoms of water. If we are afraid and struggle, we become exhausted and drown. But faith gives us buoyancy....

Hearing the metaphorical meaning of these stories does not require that one deny their factuality. if somebody chooses to believe that Jesus really did change water into wine at Cana, that he really walked on the water, and that Peter also did, it is still important to ask, "What is their more-than-literal meaning?" For these stories were told for their more-than-literal meaning. And so I sometimes say, "Believe whatever you want about whether these stories happened this way -- now let's talk about what they mean." Their truth as metaphorical narratives does not depend on their factuality. That is not their purpose.

Long before I read this book, I had used the same approach with a woman who asked me about Jonah and the whale. I said. "The big fish occurs in only three verses of the four chapters. Can you tell me what the rest of the book is about?" She couldn't. She thought maybe she should read the whole book. I agreed. Then, I said, we can talk about the meaning of the whole story and how the account of the big fish fits that meaning. (She never got back to me about Jonah.)

I don't see how Borg's approach undermines a belief in eye-witness accounts, unless believing that they are eye-witness accounts is considered necessary to be Christian. Borg disagrees with requiring such a belief.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Dave_Poedel on July 23, 2007, 08:55:05 PM
Brian:

And the point of presenting a review of a revisionist author to a forum of mostly evangelical catholics is what?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: BeornBjornson on July 23, 2007, 09:01:08 PM
Apparently we need revision.   :P
Ken Kimball
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 23, 2007, 09:13:50 PM
Its just good business to know what the competition is up to.  (I do plan on reading the Borg book.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Dave_Poedel on July 23, 2007, 09:25:25 PM
(I do plan on reading the Borg book.)

I'll pass and work on a sermon... and read a good book that makes my proclamation more effective.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 23, 2007, 09:26:02 PM
And the point of presenting a review of a revisionist author to a forum of mostly evangelical catholics is what?
To give you an opportunity to argue with it; or, you might find yourself agreeing with him -- or at least, agreeing with him more than you thought you would. That was my reaction to reading the book. I found myself agreeing with most (but not all) that he wrote. I found him presenting ways of understanding some biblical texts that were eye-opening. I can't recall that I had read anything from Borg before. I have read Crossan and found myself disagreeing with him much more than with Borg.

As an Episcopalian, I think Borg would consider himself pretty catholic, too.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 23, 2007, 10:39:31 PM
I'll pass and work on a sermon... and read a good book that makes my proclamation more effective.
Borg's book would do that. For one, he notes a distinction between believing in Jesus, that is, trusting him vs. believing that Jesus did certain things. It's one thing to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. It's another to trust God to raise me from the dead and give me eternal life. I've read a book by a scholar who believes that Jesus was raised from the dead. He does not believe that the resurrection makes Jesus the Messiah. He is not a Christian. He does not trust Jesus for salvation.

Preaching Jesus is to be transformational, not a history lesson.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 24, 2007, 08:38:25 AM
I'll pass and work on a sermon... and read a good book that makes my proclamation more effective.
Sometimes it is necessary to preach against  a theological movement or trend.  Its kinda hard to do that effectively relying on second hand material.  Better maybe to read the material first, then read evaluations pro and con. Then read books and journal articles that take opposing opinions (in this case Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.) And yes, even a conservative can learn something from Borg and Crossan every now and then.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 24, 2007, 08:51:57 AM
Preaching Jesus is to be transformational, not a history lesson. 
  Of course.  But if we are talking about the events in the Gospels as actual historical events, reported first-hand by eyewitnesses - then preaching Jesus is both.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: dfrazer on July 24, 2007, 10:21:28 AM
Brian:

And the point of presenting a review of a revisionist author to a forum of mostly evangelical catholics is what?

I am a layman. I read a variety of authors, but I have stopped reading Borg. He does not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus (Crosson and Borg talk of some spiritual resurrection), and I think he disbelieves all other miracles, including the incarnation. So, I conclude that he is not worthy of the time it would take to read it, and he definitely is not worthy of the money that I would be transferring to his pocket by reading his book.

I will not take the time to defend my characterizations above. I would like the revisionists to find places where Borg and Crosson contradict what I have said. So, that is enough time spent on Borg, I return to lurking.

Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 24, 2007, 12:06:07 PM
Preaching Jesus is to be transformational, not a history lesson.

There is nothing "transformational" about a Jesus who did not, bodily, truly and actually rise from the grave and whose death was not the death of the second person of the Most Holy Trinity.

Anyone who preaches and proclaims any other Jesus than this does not belong in any pulpit, at any time, in any place, for any reason, but deserves only the Apostolic anathema of Gal. 1:8.

And I rather doubt we should spend much time with a book by a man who denies the realities of the Christian faith like Borg does. One doesn't have to read these books to be aware of their general content. Book reviews and book notices will do.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 12:40:47 PM
I am a layman. I read a variety of authors, but I have stopped reading Borg. He does not believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus (Crosson and Borg talk of some spiritual resurrection), and I think he disbelieves all other miracles, including the incarnation. So, I conclude that he is not worthy of the time it would take to read it, and he definitely is not worthy of the money that I would be transferring to his pocket by reading his book.

To quote Borg about resurrection:

As I conclude this exposition of Easter, I return once more to the question of history or parable. As is apparent, I find these stories to be powerfully true as parables of the resurrection. it does not matter to me as a Christian whether any of them describe events that you or I could have witnessed. It does not matter to me whether the tomb was empty.

But I am aware that a historical question can still be asked: what happened? What I am confident of is this. The followers of Jesus had experiences of him after his death that convinced them that he continued to be a figure of the present. Almost certainly some of these experiences were visions; it would be surprising if there weren't any. I have no difficulty believing Paul's statement, "I have seen the Lord," or the exclamation of the disciples, "We have seen the Lord." I think many did.

I also think there were nonvisionary experiences of the risen Jesus. though not narrated in the New Testament, they are implicit. I think his followers felt the continuing presence of Jesus with them, recognized the same Spirit that they had known in him during his historical life continuing to be present, and knew the power they had known in Jesus continuing to operate -- the power of healing, the power to change lives, the power to create new forms of community.

And I think these kinds of experiences have continued among Christians ever since. I do not think experiences of the risen Jesus were confined to the forty days between Easter and the ascension of Jesus. The "forty days" are referred to only in Acts 1:3, and it is clear that the author is not speaking about calendar time, for the same author in Luke 24:50-53 reports that Jesus ascended on the evening of Easter day. Moreover, Paul's experience of the risen Jesus on the Damascus road occurred at least a few years after the "forty days" between Easter and Jesus's ascension.

For me, the truth of the claim "God has raised Jesus" is grounded in these kinds of experiences. not all Christans have had such an experience, but some have. Morever, it is not necessary to have one in order to be Christian. Jesus's words to thomas remain true today: "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." [Jesus, p. 288]

To quote Borg about Jesus' resurrected body:

What kind of existence does the risen Jesus have? Does the risen Jesus exist as a body? If he does, it is a very strange kind of body. The risen Jesus is no longer a figure of flesh and blood. Even if one takes seriously that one could touch him, as is suggested in some of the Easter stories, it would be ridiculous to imagine that the risen Jesus has a flesh-and-blood body. How much would he weigh? How tall would he be? Does he still have to eat? These are ridiculous questions -- which is exactly my point. According to the Easter stories themselves, the risen Jesus is not confined by time and space, but enters locked rooms, journeys with his followers without being recognized, appears in both Galilee and Jerusalem, vanishes in the moment of recognition, and abides with his followers always, "to the end of the age."

If the risen Jesus exists as a body, it is a body so radically different from any meaning we give to the word "body" that it seems misleading to use the term. Paul himself seems to recognize this. He affirms that Jesus exists as a body, but then immediately speaks of it as a "spiritual body" and explicitly contrasts it to a "physical body" of flesh and blood (1 Cor. 15:35-50). What is a "spiritual body"? It seems idle to me to try to assign meaning to the notion by speaking of a "glorified body" or "transformed physicality," as if these phrases make the matter more intelligible. We should leave it in the language of paradox as Paul does -- a "spiritual body" -- and simply admit that the risen Jesus transcends our categories of body, flesh, and blood. Epistemological humility and ontological modesty are called for. [pp. 288-289]

My comments: I said this in another meeting, but if we take the Easter stories as historical facts, rather than "parables," I think we run into problems. While the gospels have many points of agreement in their "empty tomb" accounts, none of the resurrection appearances occur in more than one gospel. They are all different. They are so different that they can't be reconciled.

In Mark and Matthew, the disciples are told to go to Galilee and that they would see Jesus there. Matthew records an appearance to the disciples in Galilee. However, in Luke, the risen Jesus appears in Emmaus and then Jerusalem, where he tells them to stay in Jerusalem, then Jesus ascends at Bethany. John, written after the synoptics, includes appearances in Jerusalem, and, in an epilogue, one in Galilee.

One can look at these differences and try to harmonize them and create a time-line of exactly what they think happened during those days after the crucifixion. But then whose "truth" is it? If one has to add or subtract from the biblical stories to make them fit together, doesn't that become the "truth" of the harmonizer more than the actual biblical text?

I will ask two questions about Mark 16:8b, "they [the women at the tomb] said nothing to anyone, for they werre afraid." Do you believe that this historically and factually true? Does "Mark" believe that it is historically and factually true? Does "Mark" want you to believe that it is historically and factually true?

I have argued that this is much like those parables that leave the hearers wondering what happens next. Will the barren fig tree bear fruit? Will the older brother join the party? I agree with Borg that such parables go beyond their literal and historical meaning. They are meant to evoke responses from the hearers/readers. Will we bear fruit? Will we join the Father's party? Will we tell anything to anybody about Jesus' resurrection?

I also presented the extended quotes from Borg to indicate that he doesn't start with a belief, e.g., the dead can't be raised, so Jesus couldn't have been raised; but he starts with studying scriptures. What does the Bible actually say about the "body" of the risen Jesus? (And I had to do this 30 years ago to a reporter's question about the "physical" resurrection and I came to the same conclusions as Borg.) In some text the risen Jesus acts like our bodies -- he is touched. He eats. In other texts it is quite different from our bodies. It can't be touched. It appears behind locked doors. It is unrecognized by disciples. It disappears. We have the stories of Paul seeing the risen Jesus, which was a vision of a bright light and a voice, but not a physical body. We have Paul's arguments in 1 Corinthians about the resurrected body being something entirely different from our physical, earthly bodies. Is that the kind of body the risen Jesus had?

I think that the scriptural evidence is stronger in suggesting that the risen Jesus' body was different than our physical bodies, but I invite others who believe differrently, to show how scriptures supports the belief that Jesus' resurrected body was just like our bodies -- if that's what is meant by "a physical resurrection".
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 24, 2007, 12:49:05 PM
Anyone who preaches and proclaims any other Jesus than this does not belong in any pulpit, at any time, in any place, for any reason, but deserves only the Apostolic anathema of Gal. 1:8.

And I rather doubt we should spend much time with a book by a man who denies the realities of the Christian faith like Borg does. One doesn't have to read these books to be aware of their general content. Book reviews and book notices will do.
Yes . . . but to debate effectively and intelligently with those who come along from time to time who like what apostates like Borg, I think you still need to know what he says, how he says it and how he uses (or twists) nuances of the Greek.  Sometimes hurling anathemas does nothing but push those still on the fence off that fence in the wrong direction when the fence-sitter comes to think Borg's views cannot be opposed effectively.  "It is just good business to know what the competition is up to." - Sam Bernstein, Habadasher, Warrensburg, MO, ca 1955. 

Blessings,
Irl
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 12:56:59 PM
There is nothing "transformational" about a Jesus who did not, bodily, truly and actually rise from the grave and whose death was not the death of the second person of the Most Holy Trinity.
What do you mean by "bodily"? What does it mean for you to say that Jesus bodily, truly and actually rose from the grave? What is the meaning you attribute to your statement?

I'll ask you specifically, Do you believe that Mark 16:8b is a true and actual account of what happened?

Another question, when did Jesus ascend? Was it on Easter evening as Luke reports, or 40 days later as Acts reports? (I could also ask, can human, physical bodies levitate? And where would this physical body end up as it floats upwards? Did it cease being a physical body that needed to breathe at some point in its ascension? When did it turn into the type of body that enters the heavenly realm?)

Quote
And I rather doubt we should spend much time with a book by a man who denies the realities of the Christian faith like Borg does. One doesn't have to read these books to be aware of their general content. Book reviews and book notices will do.
I have no doubt that you wouldn't spend your time reading Borg. That's part of the reason I started this discussion. You might find Borg more orthodox than you had been led to believe. You might find yourself learning from someone you formerly thought had nothing worth reading. In that sense, it's a bit like the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Perhaps like the Jew in the ditch, we can find ourselves being helped by a Samaritan, someone we had thought was an enemy.

Let me ask: Is there a reality in the parable of the Good Samaritan without it being historically and factually true?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 24, 2007, 01:11:50 PM
My comments: I said this in another meeting, but if we take the Easter stories as historical facts, rather than "parables," I think we run into problems.

Funny thing about that. I "run into problems" any time I encounter the power of God. I've grown to expect it. I try to follow the mother of our Lord, you know . . . moving as quickly as I can from "how can this be?" to "Let it be to me according to your word."
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 24, 2007, 01:15:23 PM
I have no doubt that you wouldn't spend your time reading Borg. ... In that sense, it's a bit like the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The only point of comparison between Borg and the Parable of the Good Samaritan is that Borg is like the robbers who beat the man and left him for dead. This is what Borg is doing to the only, holy, catholic and apostolic church with his "scholarship" and all faithful Christians who are afflicted with it via pastors who find it oh-so interesting, instructive and helpful. As for all your other questions Brian, perhaps you would do well to refer back to your basic Christology courses and back to the Book of Concord's presentations on Christology in the Formula of Concord and in the supplemental document to the BOC, The Catalog of Testimonies. If you never have had the opportunity, please read a genuinely faithful Lutheran presentation on Christology, such as we have it in the Formula of Concord in the Book of Concord. Martin Chemnitz' The Two Natures in Christ would offer you far more fruitful theology than the apostate musings of Borg.

At the recent death of my father, I can not tell you how grateful I am for the ministry of a pastor who did not regard the accounts in the Scriptures about Christ's resurrection to be parables. I would not wish such a pastor on anyone.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 24, 2007, 01:16:06 PM
My comments: I said this in another meeting, but if we take the Easter stories as historical facts, rather than "parables," I think we run into problems.

Funny thing about that. I "run into problems" any time I encounter the power of God. I've grown to expect it. I try to follow the mother of our Lord, you know . . . moving as quickly as I can from "how can this be?" to "Let it be to me according to your word."

Richard you are positively antiquarian with these kinds of notions. Congratulations.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 24, 2007, 01:16:26 PM
Well, if Christ's resurrection was not a physical one, a stunning miracle, a suspension of the laws of Science through supernatural intervention which was an actual historical event which occurred in Roman Palestine at a certain place and time, then, as St. Paul was inspired to write, our faith is empty and we are still in our sins.  The only options would be to either revert back to some form of Judaism, some form of neo-paganism or vague gnosticism, perhaps, or look at alternate spiritualities, other world religions, (or none) or try to reconfigure Christianity as a philosophy and way of life like Buddhism in some respects but otherwise just move on.  Sorry, but personally, I can't do that.  Yes, Christ's resurrected body (a glorified body) was different from his before the resurrection (a glorified body) but I have no choice but to affirm that Christ's resurrection actually occurred physically as a supernatural event in actual space, time, and history.  

Denial of Christ's physical resurrection is nothing new.  It has been going on since the beginning of the Enlightenment - and by some before that.  But those who deny it are simply wrong.  Yes, Christ's resurrected body (a glorified body) was different from his before the resurrection (a glorified body.)  As for the details of just how it happened:  that was due to supernatural intervention, and is forever beyond explanation by Science.  Except for the eyewitnesses, who actually saw and interacted with the risen Christ, that has to be accepted on faith alone.  Personally, I have no choice but to affirm that Christ's resurrection actually occurred physically as a supernatural event which actually occurred in actual space, time, and place, and is simply a fact of history; "an inconvenient Truth."

Blessings,
Irl  
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 24, 2007, 01:17:31 PM
Richard you are positively antiquarian with these kinds of notions. Congratulations.
Antiquarians rule !!   ;D
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 24, 2007, 01:22:42 PM
Richard you are positively antiquarian with these kinds of notions. Congratulations.
Antiquarians rule !!   ;D

Reminds me of a quip I heard years ago:

What's true is not new and what's new is not necessarily true.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 24, 2007, 01:27:47 PM
I have no doubt that you wouldn't spend your time reading Borg. That's part of the reason I started this discussion. You might find Borg more orthodox than you had been led to believe. You might find yourself learning from someone you formerly thought had nothing worth reading. In that sense, it's a bit like the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Perhaps like the Jew in the ditch, we can find ourselves being helped by a Samaritan, someone we had thought was an enemy.
Yeah, you can learn some positive things here and there by reading someone like Borg.  No doubt about it.  But he is still apostate.  He is still wrong in his positions, his convoluted arguments, isogesis (IMHO,) and conclusions.  

And I absolutely agree with ptmccain about Chemnitz' The Two Natures in Christ.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 24, 2007, 01:31:11 PM

Richard you are positively antiquarian with these kinds of notions. Congratulations.

Thank you, I think.  ;)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 02:00:09 PM
Personally, I have no choice but to affirm that Christ's resurrection actually occurred physically as a supernatural event which actually occurred in actual space, time, and place, and is simply a fact of history; "an inconvenient Truth."
Borg would say, as he does in the book, "Fine. What does it mean?"

Even though you use the word "physically," you also admit that it was a different kind of physicality than Jesus had prior to the resurrection. I think that scriptures affirms that whatever type of body the risen Jesus had (and us at our resurrections) is different than the bodies we have prior to death. Paul uses different terms to indicate the differences in the bodies -- and this comes right after he affirms the necessity of Christ's resurrection and that he is the "first fruits" of those who are raised. (Thus I think the descriptions would also apply to Christ's resurrected body.)

seed vs. plant
earthly vs. heavenly
perishable vs. imperishable
dishonor vs glory
physical vs. spiritual
of dust vs. of heaven
mortal vs. immortality

I don't think anyone would accuse Paul of denying the resurrection of Jesus, yet he makes a contrast between earthly, physical bodies with resurrected bodies that are heavenly and spiritual.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 02:01:16 PM
Funny thing about that. I "run into problems" any time I encounter the power of God. I've grown to expect it. I try to follow the mother of our Lord, you know . . . moving as quickly as I can from "how can this be?" to "Let it be to me according to your word."
Are you admitting that you have become pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit? :)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 02:38:45 PM
As for all your other questions Brian, perhaps you would do well to refer back to your basic Christology courses and back to the Book of Concord's presentations on Christology in the Formula of Concord and in the supplemental document to the BOC, The Catalog of Testimonies. If you never have had the opportunity, please read a genuinely faithful Lutheran presentation on Christology, such as we have it in the Formula of Concord in the Book of Concord. Martin Chemnitz' The Two Natures in Christ would offer you far more fruitful theology than the apostate musings of Borg.
I'm not interested in what all those other might say about Mark 16:8b, but what you have to say about it. Is it a factual account of what happened or not? I believe that the Bible is our primary source, not the Book of Concord or Chemnitz or Borg. I believe that it is always best to go to the primary sources. Thus I ask questions about what the Bible says about Jesus' resurrection, rather than what the BoC or the creeds or other authors might say.

Neither Borg nor I are denying the reality of the resurrection of Jesus or for believers. (My father died six years ago. It is the reality of the resurrection and eternal life in heaven that gave us continual comfort during the 8 months of his terminal illness.) We are asking about the most helpful and fruitful way(s) of understanding the biblical texts.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: BeornBjornson on July 24, 2007, 02:42:07 PM
Pastor Stoffregen wrote:
Quote
Borg would say, as he does in the book, "Fine. What does it mean?"

There is all the difference in the world between asking and plumbing the depths of meaning of an event and Person that really happened and asking the meaning of a passage of fiction.  
Ken Kimball
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 02:48:31 PM
There is all the difference in the world between asking and plumbing the depths of meaning of an event and Person that really happened and asking the meaning of a passage of fiction.
I don't buy that distinction. Some of the most significant and deeply studied and powerful passages of scriptures are the parables. I believe that these stories were so powerful in their message, that they are the source of the opposition that had Jesus executed. It was a parable that Nathan told that opened David's eyes to the depth of his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah. To suggest that these biblical passages are shallow and insignificant because they didn't really happen is to miss the power of story -- a power that is a good story whether or not it is really happened or is parable.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 24, 2007, 03:17:33 PM
I don't buy that distinction.

Funny.  Every other time one of us says "both, and," you keep insisting upon distinctions.


FWIW:
St. Mark 16:8b is true. 

spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: BeornBjornson on July 24, 2007, 03:23:55 PM
I wrote:
Quote
There is all the difference in the world between asking and plumbing the depths of meaning of an event and Person that really happened and asking the meaning of a passage of fiction.
Pastor Stoffregen wrote:
Quote
I don't buy that distinction. Some of the most significant and deeply studied and powerful passages of scriptures are the parables. I believe that these stories were so powerful in their message, that they are the source of the opposition that had Jesus executed. It was a parable that Nathan told that opened David's eyes to the depth of his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah. To suggest that these biblical passages are shallow and insignificant because they didn't really happen is to miss the power of story -- a power that is a good story whether or not it is really happened or is parable.


First, the discussion was whether the Resurrection (and by extension, the Incarnation) were real events (and Person) or parable.   Second, calling Biblical parables "shallow and insignificant" is your phrase, not mine.  Third, if the Incarnation and Resurrection are just parables and not real events (and Person) that really happened, then, yes, I would say that all the parables in the Bible are indeed insignificant, because they then signify nothing because they have no ontological, historical antecedent or referent.  Then the Bible is simply ancient fictive literature like Ovid's Metamorphoses or Apuleius' The Golden Ass.   The view of Scripture which you and Borg seem to hold in regard to its historical unbelievability is little different from the view I held when I was a professing agnostic.  The only difference is that my old agnostic self wonders at the intellectual dishonesty of claiming a Christian identity in continuity with the Church through history, when Borg or you seem to think it a matter of little consequence whether Christianity is founded on fiction or something that really happened.  The version of Christian faith evinced by Borg and perhaps by yourself is not one that would get me out of bed on a Sunday morning, much less stake my life upon it or much less, experience as transformative.   "I'd rather be a pagan than suckled on a creed outworn..."  
Ken Kimball
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 03:52:17 PM
I don't buy that distinction.

Funny.  Every other time one of us says "both, and," you keep insisting upon distinctions.
Funny. I thought I was denying the distinction.


Quote
FWIW:
St. Mark 16:8b is true.
I haven't argued whether or not it's true. Parables are true, but not necessarily historically factual. My question was whether or not it his historically factual. Did the women say nothing to anyone?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Michael_Rothaar on July 24, 2007, 03:53:10 PM
At the recent death of my father, I can not tell you how grateful I am for the ministry of a pastor who did not regard the accounts in the Scriptures about Christ's resurrection to be parables. I would not wish such a pastor on anyone.

I am antiquarian enough to remember the pre-html days of online communication. Typing something in all caps used to be called shouting, and was considered uncivil and extremely rude. Now that the GUI world has made possible bold scrolling text, I hardly know how to characterize it.

Besides incivility, your typographic choice trivialized the message you wanted to convey about the comfort you received from a believer at a time of grief.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 24, 2007, 03:59:48 PM
Did the women say nothing to anyone?

At first.

spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 04:08:19 PM

First, the discussion was whether the Resurrection (and by extension, the Incarnation) were real events (and Person) or parable.
Not quite. The discussion is whether or not the scriptural reports about the events are better understood as just historical facts, or should be understood, interpreted, and applied like parables -- that is, their meanings involve more-than-historical and more-than-factual understandings.

Quote
Second, calling Biblical parables "shallow and insignificant" is your phrase, not mine.  

What is your phrase for these fictional writings?

Quote
Third, if the Incarnation and Resurrection are just parables and not real events (and Person) that really happened, then, yes, I would say that all the parables in the Bible are indeed insignificant, because they then signify nothing because they have no ontological, historical antecedent or referent.

Again, the question is about the biblical stories of the incarnation and resurrection. Do these stories contain meanings that go beyond the literal and factual?

Quote
The only difference is that my old agnostic self wonders at the intellectual dishonesty of claiming a Christian identity in continuity with the Church through history, when Borg or you seem to think it a matter of little consequence whether Christianity is founded on fiction or something that really happened.

Borg states and I agree that some things really happened. Jesus healed people. Jesus taught, often using parables. However, all that we have about what really happened are the people's memories of what happened -- memories that were written down some 35-60 years after the events actually happened. (It is argued that in oral societies, people remembered more accurately. Perhaps so, but what we have are still the records of the people's memories -- not a videotape of the historical events.) It's precisely because the resurrection really happened, and it was a life-changing event -- so it colored the way people remember things that happened before the event.

Quote
The version of Christian faith evinced by Borg and perhaps by yourself is not one that would get me out of bed on a Sunday morning, much less stake my life upon it or much less, experience as transformative.   "I'd rather be a pagan than suckled on a creed outworn..."  

Well, it's the Christian faith that caused such passion in Jesus that he gave his life for it. It's the Christian faith that the early believers were so passionate about that they were willing to die for it. It was not a doctrine just to believe, but a faith to be lived. It was following the Way of Jesus, not just believing something about Jesus. By saying that the gospels are the remembrances of early believers, we are also saying that these memories were so powerful that they were willing to stake their lives on them. They were persecuted and put to death because of them. These were not "wishful-thinking" memories, but stories they were convinced were true and powerful and that had changed their lives. Would that believers today had such convictions about the stories of Jesus that they were willing to suffer and die for them. If getting out of bed on Sunday morning is all that you expect Christianity to motivate you to do; it's a pretty pathetic belief.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 04:14:49 PM
Did the women say nothing to anyone?

At first.
So you offer another alternative ending to the gospel of Mark with the addition of "at first". There is nothing in the original gospel that suggests the ladies told anyone. It states clearly that they said nothing to anyone, period.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 24, 2007, 04:15:15 PM
Well, it's the Christian faith that caused such passion in Jesus that he gave his life for it.

Uh . . . no.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 04:22:33 PM
Well, it's the Christian faith that caused such passion in Jesus that he gave his life for it.

Uh . . . no.
What about "God-centered life" or "kingdom of God" as causing such passion?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 24, 2007, 04:34:52 PM

What about "God-centered life" or "kingdom of God" as causing such passion?

My vote would be more along the lines of obedience to his Father and love for us poor sinners.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: BeornBjornson on July 24, 2007, 04:47:48 PM
Quote
If getting out of bed on Sunday morning is all that you expect Christianity to motivate you to do; it's a pretty pathetic belief.

Actually I was referring to the version of Christianity filtered through Borg and yourself as failing even that test.  The fact is that faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus has changed the whole direction of my life from cynical agnostic to a Lutheran pastor of 20 years service thus far (not to mention that I thought I was headed for a career as Naval officer with a degree in nuclear engineering).  My point was that the remythologized version of Christianity being proferred by Borg and yourself would have elicited from my old agnostic self a disinterested shrug and a "So?  Why bother with Christianity at all?"

Ken Kimball 

Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 24, 2007, 05:14:35 PM
Besides incivility, your typographic choice trivialized the message you wanted to convey about the comfort you received from a believer at a time of grief.

I wish to underscore as strongly as I can the most important point in all this, that is easily lost as Brian tries to bury every comment anyone makes with an ever increasing avalanche of words.

As for "incivility" -- perhaps you might consider spending less time concerning yourself about that and more time considering the severity of the danger of the stuff Brian keeps serving up here. I'd like to see just a bit more passion about that, than perceptions about "civility" when we are talking about the absolute core of our very being as Christians. That's something to get, perhaps, just a tad exercised about.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 11:08:41 PM
Actually I was referring to the version of Christianity filtered through Borg and yourself as failing even that test.  The fact is that faith in the crucified and risen Lord Jesus has changed the whole direction of my life from cynical agnostic to a Lutheran pastor of 20 years service thus far (not to mention that I thought I was headed for a career as Naval officer with a degree in nuclear engineering).  My point was that the remythologized version of Christianity being proferred by Borg and yourself would have elicited from my old agnostic self a disinterested shrug and a "So?  Why bother with Christianity at all?"
What is it about what I have quoted or offered cause such disinterest? I was greatly excited when reading Borg. It was much better than I had expected. I learned much. (I don't agree with everything he says.) Most of his exegetical conclusions excited me. He does a better job than anyone else I've read of placing Jesus within the Roman Near East. If I were to teach a class on understanding Jesus, this is the book I would use. For instance, why was Jesus crucified? "Rome reserved crucifixion for two categories of people: chronically defiant slaves and others who challenged Roman rule. What they shared in common was refusing to accept established authority" (p. 271). If true, and I have no doubt that it is, then we need to look at how Jesus challenged Roman rule. How did he refuse to accept the established authority?

Borg: "It has become a cliche among Jesus scholars to say that the most certain fact we know about him is that he was crucified. but it is an important cliche. Jesus was executed. He didn't simply die; authorities killed him. For a sketch of the historical Jesus to be persuasive, it must account for this." (pp. 271-272) He argues that Jesus' passion for God and the kingdom of God and God's passion for justice is what so threatened the authorities, that they execute him. He argues that followers of Jesus need to be passionate about what Jesus was passionate about: God, the kingdom of God and God's justice. That, to me, has a lot more life in it than saying, "Christians have to believe a virgin got pregnant" or "Jesus did miracles" or "Jesus was raised from the dead." This isn't saying that those beliefs about Jesus are unimportant, but those do not seem to be what the earlier believers were passionate about. They continued to buck the system and get themselves arrested, beaten, and even killed because they believed that Jesus was Lord of their lives (and Caesar was not).
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 24, 2007, 11:12:10 PM
My vote would be more along the lines of obedience to his Father and love for us poor sinners.
What about passionate about God, the kingdom of God, and God's justice? Borg uses those phrases.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 25, 2007, 12:30:05 AM
My vote would be more along the lines of obedience to his Father and love for us poor sinners.
What about passionate about God, the kingdom of God, and God's justice? Borg uses those phrases.

Nope, I'll stick with my previous answer.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 25, 2007, 02:37:31 AM
So you offer another alternative ending to the gospel of Mark with the addition of "at first". There is nothing in the original gospel that suggests the ladies told anyone. It states clearly that they said nothing to anyone, period.

Not at all.  You are the one insisting that the Gospel according to St. Mark ends at 16:8.  You are the one treating the Gospel as if it fell out of the sky last week and that we -- and the original readers -- have no context other than itself with which to interpret it.  You are the one who is being a wooden hyper-literalist with the Holy Scriptures, but willing to accept as true all sorts of speculation as to the actual setting of Jesus' crucifixion.

That the account is told in the Gospel ought to be enough to suggest that they told it.  That seems to have served the Church well for nearly 2 millenia. 

spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 25, 2007, 11:09:10 AM
They continued to buck the system and get themselves arrested, beaten, and even killed because they believed that Jesus was Lord of their lives (and Caesar was not).
. . . And because they knew (not believed, but knew, that the physical resurrection of Jesus was a fact.  Not a myth or a conception, or a hallucination, but a hard fact - an undeniable historical event; the Truth.

One should not let one's mere human reason, education, or an inflated faith in Science and Psychology (which, IMHO, are by nature inherently tenative) to get in the way of one's Christian faith.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Dan Fienen on July 25, 2007, 12:11:04 PM
Brian,

It is true that stories, whether factually or parabolically based, become important for us as we ponder their significance.  The significance of the Resurrection is not exhausted in asking is this true - or even how is it true.  We must also ask the standard Luther question, what does this mean?  However, I have observed that very often (not always) when authors emphasize that a story from the Bible signifies more than its literal factuality they also quietly want to affirm that it is less than literally factual.  It's almost prestidigitation, while the right hand distracts the audiance with affirmations of the parabolic and metaphoric truth taught by the story of the event, the left hand is quietly denying that any such event ever happened.  Meanwhile a false dicotomy is set up that dares people to choose between affirming that a story is rich with parabolic truth and therefore questions of factuality are irrelevant or that the meaning of the story is exhausted by questions of fact. 

Some stories are significant primarily or even exhaustively for their metaphoric and parabolic meaning.  The parable of the Good Samaritan is one.  It does not matter if the event described ever happened.  But then the story was told to illustrate a point.  Its original context (or at least its Gospel context) was as a parable.  The meaning giving in the original account was to illustrate what it means to be neighbor.  Can we honestly affirm that the literary function of the story of the death and resurrection of Christ in the Gospels was as illustrative points helping to explain some teaching about living.  We can certainly extract them from their context and use them as such - affirming their "truth" while denying their facticity.  Did the Bible, did the Gospel writers (whoever you figure they were) present the resurrection as a story illustrating a point or as historic event?  We can certainly claim that they were wrong in their claims and beliefs and extract meaning from their claims none the less, but that does deny a certain amount of truth about the stories.

This also becomes a question of Law and Gospel.  One of the basic distinctions between Law and Gospel is that Law is what we do and Gospel is what God has done for us.  If we affirm that the story of the Resurrection has great meaning and inspiritation for how we are to view life and live life while denying that the factuality of the empty tomb and the reality that death for Jesus was reversed we end up with Jesus as an example and inspiration for our lives.  In other words, we end up with the ultimate meaning of the Resurrection being that we need to change our lives to live in the resurrection reality and we need to be inpired by Jesus.  Perhaps we need to join Jesus in bucking authority, concern for the poor, liberating the oppressed, affirming the worth of women or whatever the current fad that adopts Jesus as poster child.  In a word, it ends up as Law.  To be Gospel it needs to deal with the factual reality of what God has done.  Otherwise it is simply philosophy.  (Not that I'm knocking philosophy, I have a masters in it and would hate to think all that work wasted.)

Back in the 50's there was a TV show, I think it was called "The Millionaire" or some such.  Each week the emissary of a shadowy multi-millionaire was dispatched to deliver a check for a million dollars to some person who usually would react with incredulity.  Various adventures and soap operas would insue.  It's been a long time since that show has been seen.  However, the point here is that being told of the generosity of this elusive rich guy, and the possibilities that having relatively unlimited money would open up could inspire people to change their lives in all sorts of ways that are irrelevant to the question of whether or not the million dollar check was actually good.  We could derive great meaning from these stories without actually stopping to ask if there really were a shadowy muliti-millionaire handing out million dollar checks.  However, if I were to actually receive such a check, I would be interested not only in how it can inspire me to live my life in better ways, but also in whether I could actually spend it.  I am interested not only in what stories of the Resurrection can inspire me to do, but also in what is going to happen to me when I die, and whether it is worth risking as well as basing my life on it.

Borg apparently makes some good points, and those who get so concerned about debating facticity that they loose sight of what it means for us have missed the point.  However, in some contexts facticity matters.

Dan Fienen
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 12:37:31 PM
You are the one insisting that the Gospel according to St. Mark ends at 16:8.
I think I'm in pretty good company by saying that. Every commentary I've read on Mark admit that the shorter and longer endings are additions. A few argue that there was a longer ending, but it was lost.

Quote
You are the one treating the Gospel as if it fell out of the sky last week and that we -- and the original readers -- have no context other than itself with which to interpret it. You are the one who is being a wooden hyper-literalist with the Holy Scriptures, but willing to accept as true all sorts of speculation as to the actual setting of Jesus' crucifixion.
Nope, I'm treating the gospel as a parable. Written by an inspired author who was more concerned about the transformational meaning the text would have on its hearers/readers.

Quote
That the account is told in the Gospel ought to be enough to suggest that they told it.  That seems to have served the Church well for nearly 2 millenia.
The account is told by the narrator. Does "Mark" want us to believe that the women said nothing to anyone (the historical-factual approach) or does he expect a reaction and response from the hearers/readers that goes beyond the historical-factual understanding, i.e., a parabolic reading? I've believed the second approach years before I ever read Borg.

For most of the two millenia, it was assumed that 16:9-20 were part of the original. Even Luther uses 16:16 in his Small Catechism to talk about Baptism. (I don't recall that he ever used vv. 17-18 to argue for casting out demons, speaking in tongues, handling snakes, drinking poison, or laying on hands to heal the sick.) For most Christians during the two millenia, these latter two verses were not taken too literally or too seriously. Because of greater manuscript evidence that weren't available before and internal evidence, there is little doubt that these verses were a later addition. Today the arguments are more about whether or not Mark originally had a longer ending that was lost.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 25, 2007, 12:58:40 PM

I think I'm in pretty good company by saying that. Every commentary I've read on Mark admit that the shorter and longer endings are additions. A few argue that there was a longer ending, but it was lost.

See, here's where we run into a problem, or at least an interesting doctrinal point. You mean, of course, that every modern critical commentary you've read says this. Ancient commentaries on Mark (or, more properly, ancient commentators, whether they be writing actual commentaries, or homilies, or other genre) don't recognize this. In the Mark volume of IVP's Ancient Christian Commentary on the Scriptures, I'm not spotting any discussion of the "problem" at all except one footnote on 16.19: "This passage, often thought to be a later addition to Mark, was regarded by Irenaeus as the received Markan text in the late second century."

So the interesting doctrinal question here is, just which is the canonical ending? Anyone who has read any "modern critical commentaries" (or even looked at a modern translation with notes) knows that there are at least three or four different options floating around, and from the critical point of view, the "short" ending seems the most viable. But all that tells us, if correct, is that the original author of the book didn't write the "longer endings" that exist. It tells us nothing about the canonical status of those "longer endings." What if the most prominent "longer ending" were written by someone else? How does that alter our regard for the book, or even for that passage (other than maybe getting us out of the snake problem)? Seems to me that the point of textual criticism is to help us understand how we got the text we have. But the text we have is, in the end, the text we have, isn't it?

I think of it as being somewhat parallel to the Psalms. Many of them are ascribed to David. If we could prove beyond any question that David wasn't the actual author of a particular Psalm, does that make it any less canonical? Does it really matter? Isn't the "received text" the one that we regard as canonical?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 01:34:16 PM
They continued to buck the system and get themselves arrested, beaten, and even killed because they believed that Jesus was Lord of their lives (and Caesar was not).
. . . And because they knew (not believed, but knew, that the physical resurrection of Jesus was a fact.  Not a myth or a conception, or a hallucination, but a hard fact - an undeniable historical event; the Truth.
Did Paul believe that his vision of Jesus as a flash of light on the Damascus road was any less real than a physical body? (In 9:7 the others with Paul heard the voice, but didn't see the light. In 22:9, the others saw the light, but didn't hear. In 26:13-14, Paul says: "I saw..." and "I heard..." rather than "we....", suggesting that it was a personal vision.) It seems to me that trying to make a distinction that physical body means "real" and vision means unreal is a false distinction in the biblical world. Visions and dreams were real events. Paul says in 1 Cor 9:1, "Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" We know from Acts, that what he saw was a bright light -- not a physical body; but it was the risen Jesus. He is certain of that.

In 1 Cor 15:5-8 Paul describes his "seeing" in exactly the same language as what happened to Cephas, the twelve, 500, and James. In all four verses, ophthe is used. More literally, it is "he was seen by ...." However, it is usually translated as, "he appeared to ...." This verb, and related words can refer both to seeing something tangible and to seeing visions and also to coming to a new understanding, e.g., "I see" = "I understand". All are "real" events. Such seeing changes people's lives, e.g., Peter's visions that led him to go to Cornelius's house (Acts 10:3). The visions seen by Ananias and Paul that led them to get together (Acts 9:10, 12).

Some other visionary seeings that changed lives: Dreams of angels led Joseph to move to Egypt and then back to Galilee. Zechariah had a vision of an angel that took away his voice, but led to a son whom he named, John. Acts 7:30, 35 refers to the appearance of an angel to Moses in the burning bush. These weren't "physical" appearances, but they certainly were real and powerful ones.

Quote
One should not let one's mere human reason, education, or an inflated faith in Science and Psychology (which, IMHO, are by nature inherently tenative) to get in the way of one's Christian faith.
What about scriptures getting in the way of what one believes? How do you answer these questions: Did Paul see the risen Jesus? Did Paul see a physical body? Did Paul have to see a physical body to be convinced that Jesus was raised from the dead and have his life transformed? (I'm not arguing about the gospel accounts of appearances, but only what scriptures say about Paul's encounter with the risen Jesus.) It seems to me that the accounts in Acts and in Paul's own letters, indicate that seeing a physical body was not necessary for one to claim to have seen the risen Jesus, for one to believe that Jesus has been raised, and to have that event completely change one's faith and life. (It could be argued that Paul's encounter had to be different than the others because it came after the Ascension. That's a good argument. At the same time, when Paul talks about Jesus appearing to him and Peter and the apostles, etc., he uses exactly the same language. He doesn't make a distinction.)

Scriptural (and I've heard stories from contemporary people, too) it is possible to have a vision of the risen Jesus in a non-bodily form that is very real and life transforming.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 01:49:14 PM
See, here's where we run into a problem, or at least an interesting doctrinal point....

I think of it as being somewhat parallel to the Psalms. Many of them are ascribed to David. If we could prove beyond any question that David wasn't the actual author of a particular Psalm, does that make it any less canonical? Does it really matter? Isn't the "received text" the one that we regard as canonical?

I have purposely not dealt with the canonical issue. Modern scholarship regards anything we have after Mark 16:8 as a later addition. Whether it's canonical or not, I don't care -- unless someone says that I have to speak in tongues, handle snakes, and drink poison -- then I might deny the canonicity of these verses.

As additions, they indicate that even early believers had difficulties understanding what "Mark" meant by ending the story with silence. They, and we, are compelled to add something more to the story. We know that there has to be more than silent women. Thus, I believe, "Mark" intends his ending to function as a parable. It is meant to evoke a response from the hearers/readers. Even further, since Mark 1:1 declares that this is the "beginning" of the Gospel, we would expect an "ending". There is none. It's like watching a TV show and all sorts of issues and plots are raised, then at the end of the hour, the screen goes blank and the words, "To be continued" appears. My wife usually yells at the TV at that point. She wants resolutions to the problems. Thus, I think that Mark is a masterful story-teller, who leaves us hanging and needing to have the story continue. We are the ones who have to continue the story of the gospel that began in 1:1.

One can certainly use 9-16 as a continuation of the story, but I don't think that's what Mark intended. 
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 25, 2007, 01:52:33 PM
Nope, I'm treating the gospel as a parable. Written by an inspired author who was more concerned about the transformational meaning the text would have on its hearers/readers.

Egads, Brian . . . If I came to believe that that's all the gospel is - a parable - I would resign from the clergy and the Church, go for a Master's in Social Work, move on (probably into Judaism) and not look back. . .  Sorry, but in all respect, I simply can not go so far as to consider the gospel a parable.  I personally have to go along with Pope Benedict XVI in the preface to Jesus of Nazareth  - there is a place for historical criticism since we are dealing with historical events, and to engage in that would be to admit - in a back-handed sort of way - that these events were not really historical events.  (And going that far is a change for me.)  But as B16 says, there is a limit to that method:  the limit being that one cannot de-mythologize supernatural events.  We cannot do as Bultmann and his followers, and try to find a "kernel of truth amid the husk of myth."  

No.  The supernatural events in the Gospels  are simply true - they are Truth.  Inconvenient, perhaps for some.  The Resurrection has been questioned and denied by different groups almost since the beginning, and especially by intellectuals since the beginning of the Enlightenment.  But nonetheless it happened.  It was a historical event in space, time, and place.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 25, 2007, 02:00:36 PM
it is possible to have a vision of the risen Jesus in a non-bodily form that is very real and life transforming.

Joseph Smith says he had a vision of Jesus in non-bodily form. To him, it was very real and life transforming. According to the thinking proposed here by Brian, it was a true and actual vision of Jesus because it was life changing and transforming.

Joseph Smith's Official
First Vision Account:

I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head .... When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description .... One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other 'This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!'

— Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith - History 1:5-8, 14-19, 22

I'm still trying to figure out how Brian's view of the Gospel narratives as parables that transform lives is any different than how we would regard Aesop's Fables. I see no reason why, according to Brian's view of the Gospels, he could not be using Aesop instead of the NT to "transform lives."
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 02:44:40 PM
However, I have observed that very often (not always) when authors emphasize that a story from the Bible signifies more than its literal factuality they also quietly want to affirm that it is less than literally factual.
Rather than assume that they have this ulterior motive, why not assume that they don't -- or at least, as Borg declares, he doesn't care. He states (I'm paraphrase, because I don't want to look it up): If you believe that it is literally factual, fine. Tell me what it means. If you believe that it is not historically factual, fine. Tell me what it means. If you waver between believing it must be historically accurate and it might not be historically factual, fine. Tell me what it means.

A less explosive example is the story of Jonah. Does one have to believe that Jonah was swallowed by a big fish for the story to have meaning? I don't think so. Frankly, I don't care what someone believes about the big fish, or how Jonah was able to compose a poem (ch. 2) while surviving in the fish's belly, or how Jonah was able to learn the language of the Ninevites, or all the miraculous events in this story. I think that the message of the little story is so powerful, that all those details pale by comparison. Why center on a big fish, when there's the much more important message of God's inclusive grace.

Quote
Meanwhile a false dicotomy is set up that dares people to choose between affirming that a story is rich with parabolic truth and therefore questions of factuality are irrelevant or that the meaning of the story is exhausted by questions of fact.  

I think that it is a false dichotomy, except that sometimes there can be such an emphasis on the historical facts, that one never gets to the meaning of a passage. For example, those who will argue about the necessity of believing Jonah was really swallowed by a big fish. I talked to one lady who argued for a literal understanding of that, but when I asked her about what was in the rest of the book, she admitted that she couldn't ever remember reading it. Thus a dicotomy can arise between what I believe and argue about the Bible vs. what is actually written in the Bible.

One of the things I apprecate about Borg's book is that it includes a lot of Bible study. It isn't just a treatise about scriptures, but provides examples after examples of exegesis to support his points.

Quote
Did the Bible, did the Gospel writers (whoever you figure they were) present the resurrection as a story illustrating a point or as historic event?
The question Borg raises is whether or not the Gospel writers intended meanings beyond the historical and factual when they remembered and wrote their accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection. I think they did. Just to give one example, look at the words of the centurion in the synoptics when Jesus dies. Each are slightly different. Each emphasizes a message of the writer.

Mark 15:39: When the centurion, who was standing right in front of him, saw the way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man [anthropos] was the Son of God!"

Mt 27:54: Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

Lk 23:47: Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent."

Mark has an emphasis on the humanness of Jesus, some argue that one of his messages is that Jesus is not a "divine man" like in Greek and Roman myths, thus the use of anthropos in the Centurion's confession (lacking in the others); and the absence of anything spectacular about the death, unlike what Matthew presents.

Luke adds "praising God" and changes the confession to one of innocence.

I think that in the remembrances of each of these writers, the historically and factually, the centurion saw and responded exactly as they reported it -- and in ways that fit emphases that are found throughout their story of Jesus.


Quote
This also becomes a question of Law and Gospel.  One of the basic distinctions between Law and Gospel is that Law is what we do and Gospel is what God has done for us.  If we affirm that the story of the Resurrection has great meaning and inspiritation for how we are to view life and live life while denying that the factuality of the empty tomb and the reality that death for Jesus was reversed we end up with Jesus as an example and inspiration for our lives.
Borg, at least in this book (the only one I've read) does not deny the resurrection nor its power. He is certain, for instance, that Paul's life was radically changed by his encounter with the resurrected, living Jesus. He argues that such transformations continue to happen because Jesus is living. He does not argue, as Crossan does, that the body was left on the cross and eaten by birds and dogs -- which is what usually happened to crucified bodies.

He does argued, based on the reports in Acts and Paul's own testimony, that a belief in a physical resurrection -- that the risen Jesus had a body just like ours -- is not necessary nor scriptural.

Quote
Perhaps we need to join Jesus in bucking authority, concern for the poor, liberating the oppressed, affirming the worth of women or whatever the current fad that adopts Jesus as poster child.  In a word, it ends up as Law.  To be Gospel it needs to deal with the factual reality of what God has done.  Otherwise it is simply philosophy.  (Not that I'm knocking philosophy, I have a masters in it and would hate to think all that work wasted.)
Borg does have an emphasis on following beyond just believing in Jesus (or worse, believing that Jesus did certain things) and having a passion for the things Jesus had a passion about, which could include the things you mentioned. One one hand, I would argue that Law is still the Word of God. One of its purposes is to make this a better world for all humanity. Borg argues that Jesus' preaching about the Kingdom of God was meant for this place. God is already king in heaven. It's earth that's messed up. Borg writes about the Kingdom of God: It's not just about politics, but is the way the world would be if God were king, and the kings and domination systems of this world were not. It is God's dream, God's passion, God's will, God's promise, God's intention for the earth, God's utopia -- the blessed place, the ideal state of affairs." (p. 252)

The questions then are: Do we sit around waiting for God to take over as king? Is it our responsibility to bring in God's kingdom? He argues for participating in the coming kingdom. "Indeed, the choice between 'God does it' or 'we do it' is a misleading and inappropriate dichotomy. In St. Augustine's magnificent aphorism, 'God without us will not; and we without God cannot.'" (p. 260)

Jesus is more than a model; but we are also called to follow in Jesus' way of participating in God's will and passion for the earth.

Quote
I am interested not only in what stories of the Resurrection can inspire me to do, but also in what is going to happen to me when I die, and whether it is worth risking as well as basing my life on it.
Does it matter to you if your resurrected life is a physical one or a spiritual one? At least for me, the knowledge of spending eternity in the presence of God in an existence that is so much better than the one here, is enough. The details of that resurrected life I'll leave up to God. I'll just claim the promise that Jesus was the first fruit and we all get to follow.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 25, 2007, 02:50:53 PM
Does it matter to you if your resurrected life is a physical one or a spiritual one? At least for me, the knowledge of spending eternity in the presence of God in an existence that is so much better than the one here, is enough. The details of that resurrected life I'll leave up to God. I'll just claim the promise that Jesus was the first fruit and we all get to follow.
Careful, Brian . . . you are starting to sound like a conservative . . .   ::)    ;)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 02:56:25 PM
it is possible to have a vision of the risen Jesus in a non-bodily form that is very real and life transforming.

Joseph Smith says he had a vision of Jesus in non-bodily form. To him, it was very real and life transforming. According to the thinking proposed here by Brian, it was a true and actual vision of Jesus because it was life changing and transforming.

Joseph Smith was crazy before this event, and crazy afterwards. There was no transformation, just another scheme to make money.

Why don't you respond to the resurrected Jesus' appearance to Paul? Was it a physical, bodily form or something else? If it was something else, then believing that the risen Jesus has to be a physical, bodily resurrection is not true.

Quote
I'm still trying to figure out how Brian's view of the Gospel narratives as parables that transform lives is any different than how we would regard Aesop's Tales.
1. The Bible is God-breathed. It has a power that is not given to Aesop's Tales or Chicken Soup Stories or even Billy Graham's books -- even though those writings can have powerful affects on people.

2. The risen Jesus is a living, active presence in the world through the Holy Spirit. It is with us as we gather in Jesus' name. It is with us through the proclamation of the Word. It is with us in the Holy Meal. It is promised to us as we are sent with the Great Commission, "I will be with you always to the end of the age." Aesop died -- and stayed dead.

3. Because there is a living active presence of Jesus in the world today, it is possible that the Spirit will use Aesop's Tales or Chicken Soup Stories or Billy Graham books or even sermons by you and me, to bring transformation to people's lives. It is not the stories that do it, nor the authors, but the power of God.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 25, 2007, 02:59:09 PM
Brian:  The question Borg raises is whether or not the Gospel writers intended meanings beyond the historical and factual when they remembered and wrote their accounts of the crucifixion and resurrection. I think they did. Just to give one example, look at the words of the centurion in the synoptics when Jesus dies. Each are slightly different. Each emphasizes a message of the writer.

Mark 15:39: When the centurion, who was standing right in front of him, saw the way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man [anthropos] was the Son of God!"

Mt 27:54: Now the centurion, and those who were with him keeping guard over Jesus, when they saw the earthquake and the things that were happening, became very frightened and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

Lk 23:47: Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, "Certainly this man was innocent."

Mark has an emphasis on the humanness of Jesus, some argue that one of his messages is that Jesus is not a "divine man" like in Greek and Roman myths, thus the use of anthropos in the Centurion's confession (lacking in the others); and the absence of anything spectacular about the death, unlike what Matthew presents.

Luke adds "praising God" and changes the confession to one of innocence.

I think that in the remembrances of each of these writers, the historically and factually, the centurion saw and responded exactly as they reported it -- and in ways that fit emphases that are found throughout their story of Jesus.   

My comment:  Well, on the other hand maybe they were two parts of one single statement of the Centurion, something like:  "Certainly this man was innocent; truly this (or, this man [anthropos]) was the Son of God!"  This would work if we are dealing with an eyewitness report rather than a memory of an incident in the past being remembered. 

If this is a (redacted) memory - "Jesus remembered," you and Borg are right to ask, "What does this mean?" 

But if, on the other hand, it is not a memory but rather, as Bauckman claims, a first-hand eyewitness report, then the question is not, "what does this mean?"  Instead, the question is, "how reliable is / are the eyewitness(es)?"

Two different questions, two different balll parks.  One has to decide which Chicago ball park in which you want to play:  "Wrigley Field" (Borg) or "White Sox Stadium" (Bauckman) . . .  ;)

Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 03:04:13 PM
Careful, Brian . . . you are starting to sound like a conservative . . .   ::)    ;)
I do that sometimes.


Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 03:09:14 PM
My comment:  Well, on the other hand maybe they were two parts of one single statement of the Centurion, something like:  "Certainly this man was innocent; truly this man [anthropos] was the Son of God!
That is one way of interpreting the differences. (Isn't that also saying that each writer's memory was a bit faulty? They remembered only part of what was said and forgot the other. Then we would have to wonder what else might they have forgotten.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 25, 2007, 04:22:06 PM
Nope, I'm treating the gospel as a parable. Written by an inspired author who was more concerned about the transformational meaning the text would have on its hearers/readers.

Aesop and the Brothers Grimm serve the same purpose.  Which may help explain why I stopped using your "Gospel Notes" as a resource for my preaching several years ago.

spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 25, 2007, 04:36:11 PM
Well, Brian, I make it a habit to read 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 at the Committal of a Christian as the Rite for Burial is winding up.  "Lo!  I tell you a mystery... we shall be changed.  For this mortal nature must put on the imperishable...." 

What did Saul see when the Risen Lord appeared to him?  That kind of body.  The same Body that I hand to those who receive the Holy Communion.

pax, spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 25, 2007, 05:58:59 PM
2. The risen Jesus is a living, active presence in the world through the Holy Spirit. It is with us as we gather in Jesus' name. It is with us through the proclamation of the Word. It is with us in the Holy Meal. It is promised to us as we are sent with the Great Commission, "I will be with you always to the end of the age." Aesop died -- and stayed dead.


Brian, I'm having a hard time understanding the positions you are taking here to be at all representative of orthodox, Biblical Christianity and confessing Lutheranism. I frankly fear for your soul.

We do not have a "presence" we have Jesus. He is not it, but the One, eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore. He is with us always, according to both His human nature and His divine nature.

Were you unable to attend Christology classes at the seminary?

Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 06:42:12 PM
Aesop and the Brothers Grimm serve the same purpose.  Which may help explain why I stopped using your "Gospel Notes" as a resource for my preaching several years ago.
You have been replaced by many others.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 06:49:09 PM
Were you unable to attend Christology classes at the seminary?
I think I took one. I concentrated on biblical classes -- even attended a year at a Lutheran Bible school.

When do you plan to respond to the biblical texts?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 06:53:22 PM
What did Saul see when the Risen Lord appeared to him?  That kind of body.  The same Body that I hand to those who receive the Holy Communion.
That's the best answer I've seen yet. It's probably not one that most other Protestants would give, but it's one Lutherans should have.

Could it not be expanded to also say, the same Body that gathers in Jesus' name? There were and probably continues to be discussion of whether or not the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament is the same or different as the Real Presence promised to those who gather in his name.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 25, 2007, 07:35:45 PM
When do you plan to respond to the biblical texts?

Unfortunately, but understandably, you confuse your idle speculations with faithful Biblical theology.

I've "responded" to the Biblical texts a long time ago Brian, when I freely and joyfully promised to speak nothing, either privately or publicly, contrary to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

I have no intention of "responding" to your heretical musings, in obedience to Proverbs 26:4.


Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Mel Harris on July 25, 2007, 07:59:17 PM

 Aesop died -- and stayed dead.


Brian,

     It occurred to me that I might be able to better comprehend your reasoning on this thread if you would explain what you mean by "Aesop died -- and stayed dead." and how you know that.

Mel Harris
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 08:00:56 PM
Unfortunately, but understandably, you confuse your idle speculations with faithful Biblical theology.

I've "responded" to the Biblical texts a long time ago Brian, when I freely and joyfully promised to speak nothing, either privately or publicly, contrary to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.

I have no intention of "responding" to your heretical musings, in obedience to Proverbs 26:4.

Is your use of Proverbs 26:4 your way of offering "faithful Biblical theology" that is in line with Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 25, 2007, 08:16:46 PM
It occurred to me that I might be able to better comprehend your reasoning on this thread if you would explain what you mean by "Aesop died -- and stayed dead." and how you know that.
As far as I know, no one has had or even claimed to have had experiences with a living Aesop after his death.

In contrast, I think that the early believers believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead, not just because somebody told them it happened; but because they also experienced the risen Jesus in some mysterious ways. We have records of Paul's encounter with the risen Jesus. We have a record of what the two men from Emmaus experienced and Mary. As well as a few other remembrances of resurrection encounters with Jesus. I think that there were many more of these that are not recorded in scriptures. For instance, Paul and Luke tells us that Jesus appeared first to Peter, but we have no account of that appearance; similarly, the appearances Paul mentions to more than 500 or to James are not given in scriptures.

I'm of the opinion that what kept the Christian church going and growing in those early years was not just the retelling of the stories about Jesus, but experiences people had with the risen Jesus (or with the Holy Spirit). In part, that's why I started another discussion about autobiographical theology. If all that the people had were the stories of Jesus, including his resurrection, then those stories wouldn't be much different than Aesop's Fables. It was the stories and the mysterious, but real presence of Jesus the community had when they gathered in his name and when they broke bread together, and for some, like Paul, as individual encounters with the risen Jesus that makes Christianity different than Aesopanity.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 25, 2007, 08:37:35 PM
Aesop and the Brothers Grimm serve the same purpose.  Which may help explain why I stopped using your "Gospel Notes" as a resource for my preaching several years ago.
You have been replaced by many others.
Like me!  :)  Brian, your weekly exegetical studies are an important resource for my preaching and for my own study.  I learn a lot from them, and they also help me brush up on my Greek.  :)  Keep up the fine work !

Peace,
Irl
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 26, 2007, 01:38:40 AM
Like me!  :)  Brian, your weekly exegetical studies are an important resource for my preaching and for my own study.  I learn a lot from them, and they also help me brush up on my Greek.  :)  Keep up the fine work !
Thanks -- and I await the arrival of the eyewitness book you recommended.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 26, 2007, 04:14:03 AM
Pastror McCain writes:

Unfortunately, but understandably, you confuse your idle speculations with faithful Biblical theology.
I've "responded" to the Biblical texts a long time ago Brian, when I freely and joyfully promised to speak nothing, either privately or publicly, contrary to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions.
I have no intention of "responding" to your heretical musings, in obedience to Proverbs 26:4.

I comment:

Moderator! Please!
"Idle speculations"? "Heretical musings"?
It has been clear for some time what kind of theology Pastor McCain endorses. They are others on this forum he might presume to damn and I'm sure as time goes by he will do so, thereby preserving his own theological purity.
No one, including Pastor McCain is under any obligation to read this thread or comment on it (and it appears that Pastor McCain feels his soul might be in peril if he considers what is said here.)
But if anyone does comment here, can we please lay off the condemnations and consignment to the outer depths?
Brian needs no defense from me and has always been gracious and non-defensive when attacked. Still, language such Pastor McCain used above poisons the discussion and diminishes the larger intent of this forum.

Moderator?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 26, 2007, 07:04:27 AM
Pr. Austin, have you received some permission of which the rest of us are unaware to post public comments to the moderator rather than using the "report to moderator" link? You've done this several times. I've been told by the moderator to use the "report to moderator" link. I think that this behavior on your part: "poisons the discussion and diminishes the larger intent of this forum."

Rather than whining about others' comments, perhaps you might consider actually engaging in theological defense of Brian's assertions that the Resurrection accounts are parables.

I believe such musings are heretical. Feel free to inform us why they are not and how such musings serve the "larger intent of this forum."
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 26, 2007, 07:30:48 AM
Pastor McCain writes:
Pr. Austin, have you received some permission of which the rest of us are unaware to post public comments to the moderator rather than using the "report to moderator" link? You've done this several times. I've been told by the moderator to use the "report to moderator" link. I think that this behavior on your part: "poisons the discussion and diminishes the larger intent of this forum."

I respond:
Oh, please! Who is banned from posting public comments to anyone?

Pastor McCain:
Rather than whining about others' comments, perhaps you might consider actually engaging in theological defense of Brian's assertions that the Resurrection accounts are parables.

Me:
You miss the point again. I am neither defending nor disputing Pastor Stoffregen's postings. I am arguing for civil conversation here, as befits brothers and sisters in the Christian faith. I have never heard anyone on this forum say they do not believe that Christ died for their sins, and rose that we may have eternal life. I have not heard anyone on this forum say they do not believe we are saved by grace through faith. You and I have disagreements on that faith - from my perspective, some of them severe - but I do not denounce your postings as "idle speculation" or "heretical." I do find them judgmental and disruptive of productive dialog. And in this forum we should not call one another pejorative names. (And one delicious irony is: given Pastor Stoffregen's exhaustive and extensive knowledge of biblical languages and his homiletical postings explaining the texts, one could hardly call his comments "idle" speculations! We should all be so "idle".)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 26, 2007, 08:25:45 AM
From my reading of Brian's musings about the Gospel accounts of Christ's resurrection being parables, I've concluded that with such comments and such beliefs he has placed himself outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity. You may disagree. You may consider such remarks to be "uncivil." But I'm not saying Brian is a mean person. He is, as far as I can tell, perfectly nice. This is not about Brian. It is about his public confession.

Perhaps you should stick to the subject and avoid your desire always to reduce all serious conversations to a conversation about civility.

Stick to the issues.

I believe Brian's "musings" are heretical.

Please explain why you do not.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 26, 2007, 09:26:47 AM
Stick to the issues.

To turn Yoda-like for a second: "Luck to you I wish."
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 26, 2007, 10:24:17 AM
Me:  You miss the point again. I am neither defending nor disputing Pastor Stoffregen's postings. I am arguing for civil conversation here, as befits brothers and sisters in the Christian faith. I have never heard anyone on this forum say they do not believe that Christ died for their sins, and rose that we may have eternal life. I have not heard anyone on this forum say they do not believe we are saved by grace through faith. You and I have disagreements on that faith - from my perspective, some of them severe - but I do not denounce your postings as "idle speculation" or "heretical." I do find them judgmental and disruptive of productive dialog. And in this forum we should not call one another pejorative names. (And one delicious irony is: given Pastor Stoffregen's exhaustive and extensive knowledge of biblical languages and his homiletical postings explaining the texts, one could hardly call his comments "idle" speculations! We should all be so "idle".)
I agree with Charles on this one.  You do not have to agree with someone all the time in order to learn from them.  I learn a lot from Brian and Charles (and all you other guys.)  And (paraphrasing Sly Stallone / Rocky Balboa in one of his "Rocky" films - the one in which he fights the Russian, "if I can . . . we all can." 

The quality of our discussions here is as good as, if not better at times, than that at a lot of seminars I attend.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 26, 2007, 11:14:21 AM
This is not about Brian. It is about his public confession.

I know -- I'm young, idealistic, and all those other things that we're supposed to grow out of.  OTOH, I find myself ofter speak of "those new young pastors," and I've been in the parish for 15 years and have learned much more theology and Scripture than I ever learned in seminary.

I've also learned more from the Reformers and, especially, the Church Fathers.

Paul may be a bit more blunt than I, but his concerns and mine are the same.  Granted, I don't know exactly what Pr. Stoffregan preaches from his pulpit.  But what I read online is corrosive to the Faith and must be countered.  Being winsome, genial, and scholarly doesn't change the corrosive nature of his teaching here.

Christe eleison, Steven+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: peter_speckhard on July 26, 2007, 11:19:21 AM
I'm not sure if I am officially the moderator being appealed to, but I will say this much-- please do not address posts directly at another person on the board unless it is needed to address the topic. Comments about someone else's lack of charity are just as disruptive as the alleged lack of charity. And though sarcasm is sanctified by God's use of it in Job 38 ff. we should avoid it here except in fun. Complaints about another person should be done privately through the moderator, or directly with that person if we can all keep it friendly. I know first-hand that this works because when I first started posting here I got a little carried away in the spirit of argumentation against our beloved moderator Richard Johnson, and later apologized via the personal message feature, and he said it was cool, no need for a public posting of it.

To call somebody else's opinion heretical is not necessarily uncharitable. It is a evaluation. If we are all duty bound to accept any proposition put forward on this board as orthodox then what that really amounts to is a policy of declaring conservatives wrong from the get-go. IMHO the idea that the resurrection wasn't literal but was somehow "experieced" despite Jesus still rotting away in the tomb is not Christian any more than the idea that He didn't really die on the cross (as I'm told Muslims believe) is Christian. It is an idea. Some might like it and want to discuss it. But just because it is put forward doesn't mean it is orthodox, and if someone thinks it is heretical they have every right to make that claim as part of the discussion. Just so long as it does not devolve into personal attacks, sarcastic dismissals, or the sort of words where a nasty tone of voice can easily be inferred.  
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: LutherMan on July 26, 2007, 11:24:11 AM
  But what I read online is corrosive to the Faith and must be countered.  Being winsome, genial, and scholarly doesn't change the corrosive nature of his teaching here.

Christe eleison, Steven+

Pewsitting lurkers without a theological education need the counterpoints that the more orthodox here offer.  If the Gospel accounts are not the true word of God, What would be the point of being a Christian believer, with faith?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Charles_Austin on July 26, 2007, 11:31:42 AM
So "heretic" is not a nasty word? And "idle speculation" is not a personal attack on the presentation of one who has certainly demonstrated that he does not sit and look at daisies and make conclusions about faith? And I shan't even try to raise the question of precisely what constitutes "orthodoxy".  And has anyone heard anybody else here say the Gospel accounts are not the true word of God?

The nature of this discussion is changing drastically, in ways that I fear will make this place inhospitable for those who hold and want to discuss views that are not LC-MS orthodoxy.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: peter_speckhard on July 26, 2007, 11:57:02 AM
There are many, many non-LCMS people in this forum, and I don't think the forum is becoming inhospitable to them or their views. It seems to me that with a few bumps here and there the discussions in general have been pretty good lately. Yes, LCMS people will not likely simply assume that whatever anyone posts here is orthodox Christianity. No surprise there. And they will say so, unless the forum is inhospitable to their views, which it isn't. But the amount of space between Brian's views and LCMS orthodoxy is expansive indeed, and there is plenty of room for everyone in between. 
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 26, 2007, 12:00:45 PM
The nature of this discussion is changing drastically, in ways that I fear will make this place inhospitable for those who hold and want to discuss views that are not LC-MS orthodoxy.

Actually, lately this place has become more interesting (at least to me) because there's been less discussion about how to discuss and the possibility of discussing and more actually dealing with issues.  But welcome back, anyway.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 26, 2007, 12:13:28 PM
From my reading of Brian's musings about the Gospel accounts of Christ's resurrection being parables, I've concluded that with such comments and such beliefs he has placed himself outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity.
And I've asked you, specifically, to deal with the biblical texts -- and you won't. You would rather attack, than present biblical supports for your views -- by the way, what are your interpretations on the resurrection narratives. All you've done is attack what I've said without offering any sort of personal positions on the resurrection appearance texts -- including those in Acts and 1 Corinthians.

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Perhaps you should stick to the subject and avoid your desire always to reduce all serious conversations to a conversation about civility.

Stick to the issues.
Perhaps you should take your own advice.

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I believe Brian's "musings" are heretical.
Please explain why you do not.
When are you going to explain why you think that they are not. You just make charges.

I have not once denied the reality of the crucifixion or the resurrection. I have argued that the stories of the resurrection appearances were written with meanings that go beyond just relating what happened historically. I have argued that the biblical texts indicate that Jesus' resurrected body had to have been something different than our bodies. It appeared as light. It could disappear. It could enter a locked room. It was not immediately recognized by his closest friends. Take issue with the biblical texts. Offer alternative interpretations.

At least Steven was willing to answer the question about whether or not Mark 16:8 was historically and factually true. You haven't even bothered to enter that discussion.

Over the years, Irl and I have had many disagreements in this forum, but he is willing to buy and read Borg's book -- and I the book he recommended. You pretend to already know everything that Borg might say so, in your mind, he's not even worth reading. So why do you bother discussing him?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 26, 2007, 12:17:34 PM
Pewsitting lurkers without a theological education need the counterpoints that the more orthodox here offer.  If the Gospel accounts are not the true word of God, What would be the point of being a Christian believer, with faith?
Again, I believe that the gospel accounts are the true word of God. But like with the parables, and similes, and metaphors, that Jesus tells, they are true without necessarily being historically factual. The stories of the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal son or the shepherd seeking the one lost sheep probably never happened in history; but that doesn't make the stories false. It is part of Hebrew thinking to present the truth in stories -- and the stories do not necessarily have to be factual to convey truth.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 26, 2007, 01:30:01 PM
Like me!  :)  Brian, your weekly exegetical studies are an important resource for my preaching and for my own study.  I learn a lot from them, and they also help me brush up on my Greek.  :)  Keep up the fine work !
Thanks -- and I await the arrival of the eyewitness book you recommended.
Youre welcome.  :)  (I have ordered the Borg book.)

Blessings,
Irl
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 26, 2007, 01:56:18 PM
Thanks -- and I await the arrival of the eyewitness book you recommended. 
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Youre welcome.  :)  (I have ordered the Borg book.)
God bless Amazon.com :)
(Although I have had people curse me for introducing them to that website when it was first starting.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Keith Falk on July 26, 2007, 02:15:31 PM
Are the discussions/questions moving across two different planes?  Feel free to correct or clarify my stating of your positions if I am incorrect.

It seems as though Brian is presenting two different (though not necessarily incompatible) points.  The first is that the execution and resurrection narratives are best understood and interpreted as parables.  The historicity of the resurrection is much less important than the results it produced.  (end point #1).  Also, when one confesses that the resurrection is historically, factually, true, Brian is trying to determine what that means.  When one confesses that Jesus was raised from the dead... what does that mean in terms of the physicality of the body, especially in light of the witness of Scripture (end point #2), and what bearing does that have on confessing the historicity/fact of the resurrection (combination points #1 & #2)

It seems as though Paul is saying that it is pointless to debate or even to discuss whether or not the resurrection is a fact of history because to do so would be to deny one of the core tenets of the faith.  In other words, it is uttering heresy (sorry all, but that is the theological term for it...).  It would be akin to putting forth that there is no God or that Isis and Jesus were lovers or any other number of things.

I hope that I have summarized points well enough... as I said, feel free to correct me!  I don't think the two can come together because the starting points are so far apart... and then they diverge even more!
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 26, 2007, 02:50:00 PM
I have not once denied the reality of the crucifixion or the resurrection.

And:

Again, I believe that the gospel accounts are the true word of God. But like with the parables, and similes, and metaphors, that Jesus tells, they are true without necessarily being historically factual. The stories of the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal son or the shepherd seeking the one lost sheep probably never happened in history; but that doesn't make the stories false. It is part of Hebrew thinking to present the truth in stories -- and the stories do not necessarily have to be factual to convey truth.

Well, Brian, while you may never have come right out and said, "Hey guys, the crucifixion and resurrection never happened!!", you have more than opened the door for the legitimacy of that interpretation or at least not ruled it out of bounds.  You seem to be contending that the facticity of the crucifixion and resurrection is formally dispensable to the Christian faith, though it may be believed and asserted by-the-by.  What you appear to be holding up as of crucial importance to the Christian faith is an experience of Jesus (who may or or may not have a body -- again, apparently unimportant) even as the importance of the reality of what he did on the cross and in the empty tomb for our benefit is structurally downplayed.

So the problem comes in with your reducing the central, structural theological importance of the fact that Jesus really did suffer and die on our behalf and was resurrected for our salvation.  If this is no longer central to our proclamation and our theology, then what we are encountering are two structurally different theologies.  Two different narratives, if you will.  One is the classic Christian narrative that makes both the fact of Jesus' death and resurrection and how it is interpreted in the canonical gospels of central importance to theology and proclamation; the other seems to make Jesus' actual suffering, death and resurrection at best an appendix to theology and proclamation while only holding on to the interpretation found in the gospels (a la Bultmann).  One has no problem integrating what really happened with its interpretation; the other finds the integration of these two sides to be problematic.

These are two different animals, two different gospels.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 26, 2007, 07:50:44 PM
It seems as though Brian is presenting two different (though not necessarily incompatible) points.  The first is that the execution and resurrection narratives are best understood and interpreted as parables.  The historicity of the resurrection is much less important than the results it produced.  (end point #1). 
Pretty close. I might say "best understood and interpreted parabolically," or more specifically, "with meanings beyond the literal and factual". There is a danger, which I've been accused of, of turning the resurrection accounts into parables -- and thus presenting them as not being historically factual events.

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Also, when one confesses that the resurrection is historically, factually, true, Brian is trying to determine what that means.  When one confesses that Jesus was raised from the dead... what does that mean in terms of the physicality of the body, especially in light of the witness of Scripture (end point #2),
Yes. I'm wondering where the word "physical" became essential to the resurrection. As far as I can tell, it is not stated in scriptures.

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and what bearing does that have on confessing the historicity/fact of the resurrection (combination points #1 & #2)
My preference is to ask about confessing the meaning(s) of the resurrection, or even more specifically, the meanings presented by the gospel writers and Paul about the resurrection. Certainly one meaning is that God raised Jesus from the dead. That is the historical, factual meaning. It can lead to defining faith by the answer to the question: "Do you believe it really happened?" Debates occure about exactly what happened. Who saw them? What did they see?  Easter faith becomes one of attesting that these unique and spectacular events happened on a particular Sunday morning and possibly for weeks afterwards (depending upon which gospel one uses) a long time ago.

Borg goes on:

What did Easter mean to the early followers of Jesus? To state my conclusion in advance, for them, including the authors of the New Testament, Easter had two primary meanings. First, the followers of Jesus continued to experience him after his death. They continued to know him as a figure of the present, and not simply as a figure from the past. Indeed, they experienced him as a divine reality, as one with God. Second, Easter meant that God had vindicated Jesus. As Acts 2:36 puts it, "This Jesus whom you crucified, God has made him both Lord and Messiah." Easter is God's "yes" to Jesus and God's "no" to the powers that killed him. Jesus was executed by Rome and vindicated by God. To put these two meanings as concisely as possible, Easter meant "Jesus lives" and "Jesus is Lord." (p. 276)

I can't see what is heretical about declaring "Jesus lives" and "Jesus is Lord." I note that the Easter greeting is: "Christ is risen!" Not, "Christ was raised!" From early on, proclaming the resurrection was about what's happening in the present more than what happened in the past. (Although, it is the past event makes the present presence possible; and the present presence points back to the historical event.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Dadoo on July 26, 2007, 07:58:22 PM
Brian,

As good liberal theology as this is, the question will eventually be asked and needs to be answered: "Did he rise, physically, from the grave or not?"  In the Autobiography thread you speak of evangelism to the postmodern mind.  That mind will eventually ask: "Do you actually believe this?"  and that postmodern mind is suspicious of answers it percieves as evasive.  So it may be good theology in a liberal modern sense but it is not good evangelical theology.

Keep the Faith

Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 26, 2007, 08:22:30 PM
Well, Brian, while you may never have come right out and said, "Hey guys, the crucifixion and resurrection never happened!!", you have more than opened the door for the legitimacy of that interpretation or at least not ruled it out of bounds.

I also note, no one has asked me if I believed the crucifixion and resurrection really happened. It seems that others just assume that because I recommend interpreting the resurrection stories parabolically, I believe that they must not have happened.

I believe that Jesus was crucified. I believe that Jesus was historically, and factually raised from the dead. I believe that the risen Jesus appeared and greatly transformed the disciples. I believe that Paul had an encounter with the risen Jesus that was so powerful that it totally changed his life. I don't know if the account of Paul's encounter with Jesus as a bright light (the light of the world) was similar or completely different from the encounters the other disciples had on Easter day. I don't know if other such encounters led the the development recorded in John that Jesus is the light of the world -- or moved many artist to picture Jesus with a white halo.

I also believe that the gospel stories about the resurrection appearances, which were written 40 or more years after the event, are likely to have part of the developing tradition about Jesus. A development, for instance, that expanded the early, simple creed, "Jesus is Lord," into the Apostles, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds. Our doctrines about the two natures of Christ and the Triune God as three persons and one God, developed over time. While based on scripture passages, such beliefs are certainly not developed in scriptures as completely as they were centuries later. (Adoptionism was another development based on scriptures, but was not accepted as orthodox.)

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So the problem comes in with your reducing the central, structural theological importance of the fact that Jesus really did suffer and die on our behalf and was resurrected for our salvation.  If this is no longer central to our proclamation and our theology, then what we are encountering are two structurally different theologies.
Which statement do you think is more central to our theology: "Christ was raised" or "Christ is risen"? We know which was the shout of the early believers.

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These are two different animals, two different gospels.
Yes, one centers on what God did for us. The other centers on what God is doing for us. One, to put it bluntly, is a history lesson. (And lots of college students study the Bible for its historical value.) The other is taking seriously the fact that Jesus is alive and present with us today (even if we never see the physical body of Jesus or even a bright light or hear an audible voice, but see only the bread and wine of holy communion and the assembly of believers, aka, the church, aka, "the body of Christ").
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 27, 2007, 10:44:20 AM
I also note, no one has asked me if I believed the crucifixion and resurrection really happened. It seems that others just assume that because I recommend interpreting the resurrection stories parabolically, I believe that they must not have happened.

I believe that Jesus was crucified. I believe that Jesus was historically, and factually raised from the dead. I believe that the risen Jesus appeared and greatly transformed the disciples. I believe that Paul had an encounter with the risen Jesus that was so powerful that it totally changed his life. I don't know if the account of Paul's encounter with Jesus as a bright light (the light of the world) was similar or completely different from the encounters the other disciples had on Easter day. I don't know if other such encounters led the the development recorded in John that Jesus is the light of the world -- or moved many artist to picture Jesus with a white halo.

You're right that I didn't ask you what you believed.  Neither was that my criticism of your approach.  My criticism was that your approach of calling the gospels in their entirety "parables" (rather than simply pointing out where there are parables in the gospels) structurally degrades the importance that what happened actually happened.  Jesus really did suffer and die and rise again, and all of this matters.  If it didn't really and truly happen, then we are still in our sins.  Your theology has to be able to account for the central structural importance of the facticity of these events of Jesus life for Christian proclamation.  Christians have not treated them in a by-the-by manner where you can take their facticity or leave their facticity (as you previously had approvingly quoted Borg as saying) because this is to change the nature of the Gospel itself.  Paul points out clearly in 1 Cor 15 that if the resurrection didn't really and actually happen, we are still in our sins and our faith is in vain.  To say that it doesn't matter all that much would be a foreign idea to Paul and would simply be the proclamation of a message different from his.

Both the reality of the events (along with their canonical interpretation) and the continuing transformation that the Spirit works through the Word (which is about those events!) are crucial and there is no tension between the two.  To first posit a tension that doesn't exist only to later resolve that tension by downplaying the importance of the facticity of events is an approach different than the Christian proclamation.  Classic Christian proclamation has never had a problem with holding together the reality of what happened (and its inspired interpretation) with the ongoing transformative proclamation of those events; to adopt a proclamation that does have this problem is to adopt a different proclamation.

Two different narratives.  Two different Gospels.

Which statement do you think is more central to our theology: "Christ was raised" or "Christ is risen"? We know which was the shout of the early believers.

The fact that Christ was raised means that Christ is risen and lives with us today, changing hearts and minds by the power of the Spirit through his proclamation, the proclamation of the living Word. 

There is no tension here.  I don't have to choose.  To say that I do is to change the very structure of the narrative of what happened then and what's happening now and so is a different gospel.

Yes, one centers on what God did for us. The other centers on what God is doing for us. One, to put it bluntly, is a history lesson. (And lots of college students study the Bible for its historical value.) The other is taking seriously the fact that Jesus is alive and present with us today (even if we never see the physical body of Jesus or even a bright light or hear an audible voice, but see only the bread and wine of holy communion and the assembly of believers, aka, the church, aka, "the body of Christ").

Here is a great example of your saying that one must take an "either - or" approach.  Christian proclamation has never seen this need.  Rather, the crucial importance of the facticity of the ministry, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus has always played a central role in the structure of Christian theology that is based upon the canonical interpretation we find in the gospels.  Everything that Jesus did (history) was for our sake and he continues to transform us today through the proclamation of what actually happened (history again) and why it happened (interpretation).  To downplay the central, structural role that these events have for Christian theology is to change the narrative and so change the nature of the Gospel itself.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Dave_Poedel on July 27, 2007, 02:30:40 PM
OK, Brian.  Looking at John 20, the Apostle (yes, I believe that the same John wrote the Gospel, the Epistles and Revelation) recounts the appearance of the Risen Lord Jesus bodily to His disciples.  Yes, his body is a glorified one, not limited by such things as doors and windows, capable of "disappearing".  John also recounts the fact that "he showed them his hands and feet" v.20, and "the disciples were glad when they SAW the Lord" (emphasis mine).  Later, when Thomas was with them, Jesus said "put your finger here, and SEE my hands; and put out your hand....do not disbelieve but believe" v. 27, ESV.

This is not a vision of a group of disciples, this is not a redacted story to make a point, it is a FACT.  Corporeal flesh, unlimited by time and space...the best hint to what our glorified bodies will be.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2007, 02:34:51 PM
You're right that I didn't ask you what you believed.  Neither was that my criticism of your approach.  My criticism was that your approach of calling the gospels in their entirety "parables" (rather than simply pointing out where there are parables in the gospels) structurally degrades the importance that what happened actually happened.
Well, I believe that Mark, especially with the ending that isn't an ending, functions like a parable, or, I've compared the gospels also to sermons, where good preachers take traditional material (namely the texts of scriptures) and proclaim it in ways that make sense to and bring a message to a contemporary audience. Seldom is the main point in a sermon the giving of just a history lesson. Even when preaching historical stuff, at least my aim is to make it an exciting story that draws the hearers into the story, so that they are no longer like observers of what happened a long time ago to others, but they become participants in the story. (I think that's what parables seek to do.)

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Jesus really did suffer and die and rise again, and all of this matters.  If it didn't really and truly happen, then we are still in our sins.  Your theology has to be able to account for the central structural importance of the facticity of these events of Jesus life for Christian proclamation.  Christians have not treated them in a by-the-by manner where you can take their facticity or leave their facticity (as you previously had approvingly quoted Borg as saying) because this is to change the nature of the Gospel itself.
What Borg argues is that the way historical events were remembered was colored by the developing tradition. Most notably, the resurrection then colored everything they remembered about the pre-resurrected Jesus; and probably influenced the way they remembered him, and certainly how they came to understand things he said and did. I think that that's just part of human nature.

After 9/11, I think all of us found new and different ways of interpreting and applying biblical texts because of that tragic event. Although we aren't writing holy scriptures, we do write sermons, and we know that our experiences, our growth and maturity as Christians, insights given to us by others, influence the way we read and understand scriptures and what we write in sermons.

I think that the later experiences of the believers influenced what stories they remembered about Jesus -- and how they told them. For a simple example, in regards to the Lord's Prayer, the words Matthew attributes to Jesus, "When you are praying,...." He is writing from and/or to a group of people who pray. That is reflected in the way he remembers Jesus' words and events. In contrast, Luke has the disciples see Jesus at prayer, then say, "Teach us to pray,...." This suggests that Luke's audience may not have been people who were in the habit of praying and that colors the way he remembers Jesus' words and events.

As Borg states, and as I have experienced for myself, such conclusions about the gospels come from intense studies of scriptures. They arise out of noting all the subtle differences and similarities in the gospels. We come to conclusions about their compositions that we think best explain what is actually in scriptures -- what the texts actually say.

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Paul points out clearly in 1 Cor 15 that if the resurrection didn't really and actually happen, we are still in our sins and our faith is in vain.  To say that it doesn't matter all that much would be a foreign idea to Paul and would simply be the proclamation of a message different from his.
And yet, Paul's experience of the resurrection did not include a "body". When he argues about the resurrected body, he calls it a "spiritual" body (among other terms. While Paul insists on the necessity of the resurrection of Jesus, he doesn't help us understand exactly what that means, except, perhaps, as Borg summarizes the meaning of the resurrection: Jesus is Lord and Jesus is alive.

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To first posit a tension that doesn't exist only to later resolve that tension by downplaying the importance of the facticity of events is an approach different than the Christian proclamation.  Classic Christian proclamation has never had a problem with holding together the reality of what happened (and its inspired interpretation) with the ongoing transformative proclamation of those events; to adopt a proclamation that does have this problem is to adopt a different proclamation.
Perhaps your experience is different than mine, but I have run into people for whom their understanding of Christianity is tied only to accept the historical details. If you believe that Jesus was born from a virgin, you must be a Christian. If you believe the tomb was empty and Jesus was physically raised from the dead, you must be a Christian. Besides overlooking the importance of life in Christ today; we also have, with those two statements, biblical evangelism that said nothing about the virgin birth, and statements about the resurrection that don't stress the physicality of it. The importance of those topics are part of the developing tradition. They are not present in Paul's letters -- the earliest written scriptures. Theya re not present in the gospel of Mark, the earliest written gospel. They apparently weren't all that important to those biblical writers. As I wrote above, such conclusions come from studying scriptures. Trying to find ways of explaning what is or isn't in the sacred writings. Did Paul proclaim the necessity of believing in the virgin birth or the physical resurrection of Jesus, (her certainly did preach on the resurrection of Jesus and it's necessity,) on his great missionary journeys? While we can't know for certain, we do know that such preaching is not in the records in Acts, nor in his letters. So, I have encounted situations where there was not a both/and, but only the historical part.

Borg also points out another area of tension: that of believing and that of following; or as a way he phrases the two paradigms: "belief-centered," which emphasizes the importance of holding Christian beliefs about Jesus, God, and the Bible; and "way-centered," which emphasizes that Christianity is about following Jesus on a path. Jesus called the first disciples to follow him. In terms of their beliefs, in Matthew they are called people of little faith; and in Mark, people of no faith. Why is it that something like 80% of Americans believe that they can be good Christians and never attend church? I think that it's because they have been brought up on a "belief-centered" Christianity that makes the faith a set of doctrines or statements that one gives assent to. Prior to creeds and doctrines and other such academic stuff, I think Christianity was more about the way one lived, whether or not a person knew or understood or assented to, for instance, everything in the Athanasian Creed, which ends with: "One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully." Shouldn't Christianity have something to do with gathering together in Jesus' name, "doing this" in remembrance of him, going out and making disciples? Why aren't those as important in defining Christians as agreeing with a virgin birth and a physical resurrection of Jesus?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Dave_Poedel on July 27, 2007, 02:49:36 PM
Brian:

My experience is that when you start messing with the Scriptures, the folks in the pews throw up their hands, get really mad and go find a church that believes what they were taught all of their lives.  The Church has described the Scriptures as "holy" for a reason and all of this subtle analysis, comparing subtle differences in the Gospels, etc. is just not helpful to the folks we are called to SERVE.  I am reading B16's new book on Jesus and he does a masterful treatment on the proper uses as well as the limitations of historical-critical exegesis.  The bottom line is that the Scripture is the Church's book, interpreted by the Church for 2000 years and will remain the Sacred Scripture until Christ comes again in His glory.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2007, 02:49:45 PM
OK, Brian.  Looking at John 20, the Apostle (yes, I believe that the same John wrote the Gospel, the Epistles and Revelation) recounts the appearance of the Risen Lord Jesus bodily to His disciples.  Yes, his body is a glorified one, not limited by such things as doors and windows, capable of "disappearing".  John also recounts the fact that "he showed them his hands and feet" v.20, and "the disciples were glad when they SAW the Lord" (emphasis mine).
Paul said that he SAW the risen Lord, but what he saw was nothing like the account in John 20.

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This is not a vision of a group of disciples, this is not a redacted story to make a point, it is a FACT.  Corporeal flesh, unlimited by time and space...the best hint to what our glorified bodies will be.
Nothing in John 20 indicates that there was corporeal flesh. If Thomas stuck his finger in the nail hole in Jesus' hand, he would have felt nothing. Similarly with his hand in the hole in his side.

In addition, how did Jesus know that Thomas said, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nals and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (20:25), unless Jesus, was in that room, without a body and unseen by any of the disciples at that time? Limiting the resurrection to a corporeal body, limits the places the risen Jesus can be. If, however, the resurrected body is a spiritual one, as Paul states in 1 Cor 15, but one that can appear as human, and maybe even take on fleshly attributes, or appear as a bright light as Paul (and many others, even in the contemporary world have seen,) (or be really present in bread and wine, and assemblies gathering in Jesus' name,) that seems to fit some of the biblical stories better and people's experiences today, for those who are privileged to "see" something.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Dave_Poedel on July 27, 2007, 02:55:48 PM
OK, Brian.  Looking at John 20, the Apostle (yes, I believe that the same John wrote the Gospel, the Epistles and Revelation) recounts the appearance of the Risen Lord Jesus bodily to His disciples.  Yes, his body is a glorified one, not limited by such things as doors and windows, capable of "disappearing".  John also recounts the fact that "he showed them his hands and feet" v.20, and "the disciples were glad when they SAW the Lord" (emphasis mine).
Paul said that he SAW the risen Lord, but what he saw was nothing like the account in John 20.

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This is not a vision of a group of disciples, this is not a redacted story to make a point, it is a FACT.  Corporeal flesh, unlimited by time and space...the best hint to what our glorified bodies will be.
Nothing in John 20 indicates that there was corporeal flesh. If Thomas stuck his finger in the nail hole in Jesus' hand, he would have felt nothing. Similarly with his hand in the hole in his side.

In addition, how did Jesus know that Thomas said, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nals and my hand in his side, I will not believe" (20:25), unless Jesus, was in that room, without a body and unseen by any of the disciples at that time? Limiting the resurrection to a corporeal body, limits the places the risen Jesus can be. If, however, the resurrected body is a spiritual one, as Paul states in 1 Cor 15, but one that can appear as human, and maybe even take on fleshly attributes, or appear as a bright light as Paul (and many others, even in the contemporary world have seen,) (or be really present in bread and wine, and assemblies gathering in Jesus' name,) that seems to fit some of the biblical stories better and people's experiences today, for those who are privileged to "see" something.

Sorry, Brian.  I can't go there at all, no way, no how. If Thomas put his hand into Jesus' hand or side, he would have felt the glorified flesh of Jesus.  Jesus is God, and fully capable of knowing what Thomas was thinking, as He is fully aware of the pain in my figurative heart as I write this.  Kyrie eleison!
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2007, 02:59:59 PM
My experience is that when you start messing with the Scriptures, the folks in the pews throw up their hands, get really mad and go find a church that believes what they were taught all of their lives.
Who's messing with scriptures? Frankly, a lot of people in the pews would find their beliefs challenged if they actually read and studied scriptures. Some, actually find the higher-critical approach to be life-giving to them. A phrase I've used to describe some people, "Don't confuse me with the Bible, my faith is made up."

I was still in seminary (over 30 years ago) when I was a supply preacher at a suburban church in Denver. The text was the killing of the innocents. I presented the scholarly opinions that (1) since there are no other records of such a killing, it seems unlikely that it really happened, (2) however, from what he know of Herod from other historical records, he is the type of man who could have given such an order, so it could have happened, and (3) the reason Matthew tells the story is to present Jesus as a new Moses, at whose birth children were killed, and who had a connection with Egypt; and to again show how Jesus comes to fulfill scriptures.

A couple people after the service expressed great appreciation to me for suggesting that it might not have really happened, because they hated that story in the Bible. It was a hindrance to their faith in God. They didn't want to believe in a God who would allow the slaughter of little children. So, what might drive some people out of the church, may be exactly the same thing that draws others in.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2007, 03:01:30 PM
Sorry, Brian.  I can't go there at all, no way, no how. If Thomas put his hand into Jesus' hand or side, he would have felt the glorified flesh of Jesus.  Jesus is God, and fully capable of knowing what Thomas was thinking, as He is fully aware of the pain in my figurative heart as I write this.  Kyrie eleison!
When you take the bread (or wafer) of holy communion, are you feeling bread or Jesus?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 27, 2007, 03:07:52 PM
They are not present in Paul's letters -- the earliest written scriptures. Theya re not present in the gospel of Mark, the earliest written gospel. They apparently weren't all that important to those biblical writers.

Or they weren't matters of controversy, so it was not necessary to include them in these particular books.  Once again you treat each document as if it were in a vacuum, and that its audience (both the original and current) knows nothing other than what in written on that particular papyrus/parchment/page.  The ancients were not such wooden literalists as you; neither are today's fundamentalists.

Incidentally, I prefer to follow the scholarship (both ancient and current) that finds Matthew's (and not Mark's) as the oldest Gospel.

pax, spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 27, 2007, 03:13:12 PM

Limiting the resurrection to a corporeal body, limits the places the risen Jesus can be.

The only one "limiting" the resurrected Jesus' body in this thread is you, Brian.

spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 27, 2007, 03:15:53 PM
When you take the bread (or wafer) of holy communion, are you feeling bread or Jesus?

Yes.

spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: MaddogLutheran on July 27, 2007, 03:31:24 PM
They are not present in Paul's letters -- the earliest written scriptures. Theya re not present in the gospel of Mark, the earliest written gospel. They apparently weren't all that important to those biblical writers.

Or they weren't matters of controversy, so it was not necessary to include them in these particular books.  Once again you treat each document as if it were in a vacuum, and that its audience (both the original and current) knows nothing other than what in written on that particular papyrus/parchment/page.  The ancients were not such wooden literalists as you; neither are today's fundamentalists.

Incidentally, I prefer to follow the scholarship (both ancient and current) that finds Matthew's (and not Mark's) as the oldest Gospel.
Interesting...I recently stumbled across a paper on the internet that fleshed out (sorry :)) that theory, but I had no way to tell how "authoritative" the scholarship was.  If I understand one of the theses, Matthew (targeting Jews) and Luke (Gentiles) were written about the same time, before sacking of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, while Mark is perhaps the transcription of an oral narrative by Peter of his own personal recollections (explaining the absence of the Nativity narrative, it's abrupt ending, and it's curious Greek grammar), at which he had the texts of Matthew and Luke at hand to quote.  John still being the last and a bit later, but also an eye witness and addresses new things without much overlap to the others.  One of the underlying premises of this author's presentation was just as Pr. Tibbetts alluded to, there were some things not in controversy, because they were known to that first generation, and had no need to be explained or record.  The paper I mention did certainly acknowledge that there were particular points to what was recorded, including responding to contemporary skepticism of the claims of this new Jewish sect.  Take all this with a grain of salt.

Maybe this is all Seminary 101 to the pastors here...I'm no Scriptural scholar, to be sure, but I do find these things interesting.  And yes, as a layman, thank you Pr. Poedel - this one doesn't go for novel theories which undermine the simplest understanding of the text (granting I'm not reading it in the original Greek.)  Occam's razor works for me.

When it's recorded that Jesus asks Thomas to touch him, that says to me He has a physical body (not like mine), and what's going on is more than a shared vision.  If the disciples could share a common vision, why couldn't Jesus be physically present.  There's no reason that just because Jesus physically appears to some doesn't mean he can't appear as some sort of "vision" to Saul.  It's not an either/or.  He's God, allowed to suspend the laws of physics locally if He chooses.

I'm not saying Pr. Stoffregen's proposition is unworthy of debate, merely agreeing with the idea that there are some boundaries, as Pr. Poedel noted the pope for example has described on historical criticism, and others upstream.

Sterling Spatz
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 27, 2007, 03:36:49 PM
A couple people after the service expressed great appreciation to me for suggesting that it might not have really happened, because they hated that story in the Bible. It was a hindrance to their faith in God. They didn't want to believe in a God who would allow the slaughter of little children.

And there you have it then. What is it Paul wrote? "A stumbling block to Jews, and folly to Gentiles." And modern humanity wants, above all, to believe in "a god" of their own design. Meanwhile, "He who sits in the heavens laughs."
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 27, 2007, 03:37:24 PM
You're right that I didn't ask you what you believed.  Neither was that my criticism of your approach.  My criticism was that your approach of calling the gospels in their entirety "parables" (rather than simply pointing out where there are parables in the gospels) structurally degrades the importance that what happened actually happened.
Well, I believe that Mark, especially with the ending that isn't an ending, functions like a parable, or, I've compared the gospels also to sermons, where good preachers take traditional material (namely the texts of scriptures) and proclaim it in ways that make sense to and bring a message to a contemporary audience. Seldom is the main point in a sermon the giving of just a history lesson. Even when preaching historical stuff, at least my aim is to make it an exciting story that draws the hearers into the story, so that they are no longer like observers of what happened a long time ago to others, but they become participants in the story. (I think that's what parables seek to do.)

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Jesus really did suffer and die and rise again, and all of this matters.  If it didn't really and truly happen, then we are still in our sins.  Your theology has to be able to account for the central structural importance of the facticity of these events of Jesus life for Christian proclamation.  Christians have not treated them in a by-the-by manner where you can take their facticity or leave their facticity (as you previously had approvingly quoted Borg as saying) because this is to change the nature of the Gospel itself.
What Borg argues is that the way historical events were remembered was colored by the developing tradition. Most notably, the resurrection then colored everything they remembered about the pre-resurrected Jesus; and probably influenced the way they remembered him, and certainly how they came to understand things he said and did. I think that that's just part of human nature.

After 9/11, I think all of us found new and different ways of interpreting and applying biblical texts because of that tragic event. Although we aren't writing holy scriptures, we do write sermons, and we know that our experiences, our growth and maturity as Christians, insights given to us by others, influence the way we read and understand scriptures and what we write in sermons.

I think that the later experiences of the believers influenced what stories they remembered about Jesus -- and how they told them. For a simple example, in regards to the Lord's Prayer, the words Matthew attributes to Jesus, "When you are praying,...." He is writing from and/or to a group of people who pray. That is reflected in the way he remembers Jesus' words and events. In contrast, Luke has the disciples see Jesus at prayer, then say, "Teach us to pray,...." This suggests that Luke's audience may not have been people who were in the habit of praying and that colors the way he remembers Jesus' words and events.

As Borg states, and as I have experienced for myself, such conclusions about the gospels come from intense studies of scriptures. They arise out of noting all the subtle differences and similarities in the gospels. We come to conclusions about their compositions that we think best explain what is actually in scriptures -- what the texts actually say.

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Paul points out clearly in 1 Cor 15 that if the resurrection didn't really and actually happen, we are still in our sins and our faith is in vain.  To say that it doesn't matter all that much would be a foreign idea to Paul and would simply be the proclamation of a message different from his.
And yet, Paul's experience of the resurrection did not include a "body". When he argues about the resurrected body, he calls it a "spiritual" body (among other terms. While Paul insists on the necessity of the resurrection of Jesus, he doesn't help us understand exactly what that means, except, perhaps, as Borg summarizes the meaning of the resurrection: Jesus is Lord and Jesus is alive.

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To first posit a tension that doesn't exist only to later resolve that tension by downplaying the importance of the facticity of events is an approach different than the Christian proclamation.  Classic Christian proclamation has never had a problem with holding together the reality of what happened (and its inspired interpretation) with the ongoing transformative proclamation of those events; to adopt a proclamation that does have this problem is to adopt a different proclamation.
Perhaps your experience is different than mine, but I have run into people for whom their understanding of Christianity is tied only to accept the historical details. If you believe that Jesus was born from a virgin, you must be a Christian. If you believe the tomb was empty and Jesus was physically raised from the dead, you must be a Christian. Besides overlooking the importance of life in Christ today; we also have, with those two statements, biblical evangelism that said nothing about the virgin birth, and statements about the resurrection that don't stress the physicality of it. The importance of those topics are part of the developing tradition. They are not present in Paul's letters -- the earliest written scriptures. Theya re not present in the gospel of Mark, the earliest written gospel. They apparently weren't all that important to those biblical writers. As I wrote above, such conclusions come from studying scriptures. Trying to find ways of explaning what is or isn't in the sacred writings. Did Paul proclaim the necessity of believing in the virgin birth or the physical resurrection of Jesus, (her certainly did preach on the resurrection of Jesus and it's necessity,) on his great missionary journeys? While we can't know for certain, we do know that such preaching is not in the records in Acts, nor in his letters. So, I have encounted situations where there was not a both/and, but only the historical part.

Borg also points out another area of tension: that of believing and that of following; or as a way he phrases the two paradigms: "belief-centered," which emphasizes the importance of holding Christian beliefs about Jesus, God, and the Bible; and "way-centered," which emphasizes that Christianity is about following Jesus on a path. Jesus called the first disciples to follow him. In terms of their beliefs, in Matthew they are called people of little faith; and in Mark, people of no faith. Why is it that something like 80% of Americans believe that they can be good Christians and never attend church? I think that it's because they have been brought up on a "belief-centered" Christianity that makes the faith a set of doctrines or statements that one gives assent to. Prior to creeds and doctrines and other such academic stuff, I think Christianity was more about the way one lived, whether or not a person knew or understood or assented to, for instance, everything in the Athanasian Creed, which ends with: "One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully." Shouldn't Christianity have something to do with gathering together in Jesus' name, "doing this" in remembrance of him, going out and making disciples? Why aren't those as important in defining Christians as agreeing with a virgin birth and a physical resurrection of Jesus?

This is all fascinating in a somewhat morbid way.  I only say "morbid" because none of it, best I can tell, addressed my critique.  There is obviously a wealth of different things that I could pursue herein, but for now, I'd prefer to hear your reaction to my criticism of your continuing approach.

That is, namely, by making the historicity of Jesus' ministry, death, resurrection and ascension an optional part of theology rather than something that is integral to what it means to be Christian, you are teaching a different theology, a different narrative, a different Gospel.  It doesn't matter that you may happen to believe that these things happened; what matters is that, according to the theology you are espousing, they are, strictly speaking, inconsequential to the Christian message.  This is not historic Christianity.  Rather, historic Christianity insists on both the "now-ness" of the proclamation that God uses to change hearts and minds, but the content of that proclamation is to bring into the present, through the Word, what God has in fact done for us -- sent His beloved Son in the power of the Spirit to suffer and die on our behalf and rise for our salvation.  THERE IS NO DICHOTOMY BETWEEN WHAT GOD HAS DONE AND IS DOING -- BOTH ARE PART AND PARCEL OF THE CHRISTIAN PROCLAMATION (sorry for yelling).

To say differently is to teach a different Gospel.

BTW -- in relation to the idea that the resurrected Jesus had a physical body, you are making arguments that is similar to the Reformed side of the debates in Reformation times.  That is, since Jesus has a real, physical body and it's located at the right hand of the Father in heaven, how can it be present in the Eucharist?  How does it never seem to run out?  Is it just really, really big?  Of course, all these questions are silly when you're talking about the power of God who can do what He likes with physical bodies.  But what you're saying is different again because they did accept that the risen Christ had some type of physical body, though of exactly what type we cannot say.

BTW #2 -- Check out John 21:13.  Here, Jesus takes bread and fish and gives it to the disciples.  Perhaps he levitated it?  He is also comprehended in the 3p plural of vs. 15, so it appears that either he ate the bread and fish or it flopped to the ground after he tried to insert it into his non-existent mouth.  Lk 24:42-43 indicates that there weren't any bits of food dropping through Jesus' non-existent body when he at the fish there, either.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: peter_speckhard on July 27, 2007, 03:37:42 PM
My experience is that when you start messing with the Scriptures, the folks in the pews throw up their hands, get really mad and go find a church that believes what they were taught all of their lives.
Who's messing with scriptures? Frankly, a lot of people in the pews would find their beliefs challenged if they actually read and studied scriptures. Some, actually find the higher-critical approach to be life-giving to them. A phrase I've used to describe some people, "Don't confuse me with the Bible, my faith is made up."

I was still in seminary (over 30 years ago) when I was a supply preacher at a suburban church in Denver. The text was the killing of the innocents. I presented the scholarly opinions that (1) since there are no other records of such a killing, it seems unlikely that it really happened, (2) however, from what he know of Herod from other historical records, he is the type of man who could have given such an order, so it could have happened, and (3) the reason Matthew tells the story is to present Jesus as a new Moses, at whose birth children were killed, and who had a connection with Egypt; and to again show how Jesus comes to fulfill scriptures.

A couple people after the service expressed great appreciation to me for suggesting that it might not have really happened, because they hated that story in the Bible. It was a hindrance to their faith in God. They didn't want to believe in a God who would allow the slaughter of little children. So, what might drive some people out of the church, may be exactly the same thing that draws others in.
The people who were glad to be told that it might not have happened were not well-served by you on that occassion for several reasons. First, it happened because the Bible says it happened and was not speaking metaphorically. Secondly, it is poor scholarship to assume that an account "seems unlikely" just because there are no other records of it. Thirdly, it makes no difference whether Matthew wanted Jesus to be seen as the new Moses; it only matters whether He was or not, and in what ways or with what differences. Fourthly, you encouraged people to think it is okay not to believe the parts of the Bible they don't like. And lastly, we live in a world where God does indeed allow children to be slaughtered rather routinely. Not coming to grips with that is a much bigger hindrance to faith in the real God as opposed to a god we might invent for ourselves than recognizing and dealing with the problem ever could be. In every way-- regarding the nature of the Scriptures, historical data, faith-edification, and life-application, your hearers would have been much better served had you simply proceeded on the (correct) assumption that the slaughter of the innocents really happened and then preached a law/Gospel sermon on that difficult text rather than inviting them into interesting little digressions. The people who liked it because it lets them believe in a God who doesn't allow for that sort of thing deserved to be corrected. Experience will surely reveal theodicy issues in their lives, and now they are that much less equipped to deal with them. But they have learned to speculate about Matthew's original readers, so they have that going for them. Which is nice.  
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 27, 2007, 03:40:00 PM
A couple people after the service expressed great appreciation to me for suggesting that it might not have really happened, because they hated that story in the Bible. It was a hindrance to their faith in God. They didn't want to believe in a God who would allow the slaughter of little children.

And there you have it then.

Feuerbach would be proud.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: MaddogLutheran on July 27, 2007, 03:58:52 PM
And there you have it then. What is it Paul wrote? "A stumbling block to Jews, and folly to Gentiles." And modern humanity wants, above all, to believe in "a god" of their own design...
And modify the pronouns in the liturgy accordingly.   ;D
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2007, 04:00:13 PM
First, it happened because the Bible says it happened and was not speaking metaphorically.
That's your interpretation of it.

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Secondly, it is poor scholarship to assume that an account "seems unlikely" just because there are no other records of it.

That is exactly what good scholarship is about. Things that are recorded in multiple of unconnected sources are more likely to have happened than those recorded in only one source.

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Thirdly, it makes no difference whether Matthew wanted Jesus to be seen as the new Moses; it only matters whether He was or not, and in what ways or with what differences.
Neither Mark nor Luke nor John present Jesus as the new Moses. It is a way of interpreting Jesus. It is not the only way. Seldom do I present Jesus as a "new Moses" in a sermon, unless I'm preaching on Matthew.

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Fourthly, you encouraged people to think it is okay not to believe the parts of the Bible they don't like.

I encourage people to believe the message of the Bible.

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And lastly, we live in a world where God does indeed allow children to be slaughtered rather routinely.
Yup, and one of the points I plan to make in my sermon is that we should be ranting and raving to God, pounding on his door, keeping him up all night because such evil continues to happenin our world. The kingdom Jesus said was near doesn't seem so near when children are slaughtered or starve to death or die because they lacked medical care.

I can see clearly from your posts why there needs to be both an LCMS and an ELCA. I could not, in good conscience, preach the text as you suggest, and you couldn't do it the way I do. We belong in different church bodies.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: peter_speckhard on July 27, 2007, 04:03:23 PM
Finally we agree on something.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2007, 04:07:20 PM
And there you have it then. What is it Paul wrote? "A stumbling block to Jews, and folly to Gentiles." And modern humanity wants, above all, to believe in "a god" of their own design. Meanwhile, "He who sits in the heavens laughs."
Ah, but what is the stubbling block / folly: that Herod actually killed innocent children or that the meaning Matthew intends by telling this story doesn't depend on it being factual?

To put on a literal hat for the moment, your scripture quote has a very specific context: "We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23). It's the preaching of the crufixion that is a stumbling block / folly -- not even the preaching of the resurrection (at least in that context)! And certainly not a question about whether or not tens or hundreds or thousands of infants were slaughtered.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 27, 2007, 04:40:17 PM
First, it happened because the Bible says it happened and was not speaking metaphorically.
That's your interpretation of it.
And, of course, the interpretation of the church for two millenia. I don't disagree with Peter, though I might be more inclined to say the reverse is also true: The Bible says it happened because it happened.


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Secondly, it is poor scholarship to assume that an account "seems unlikely" just because there are no other records of it.

That is exactly what good scholarship is about. Things that are recorded in multiple of unconnected sources are more likely to have happened than those recorded in only one source.

Oh, I don't think so. Think about textual criticism: scholars generally assume the the "most difficult reading" is most likely to be original. Besides, lest we forget, Bethlehem was a nothing backwater town of low population. Herod's slaughter of all the children under two (which likely wouldn't be all that many children, though obviously still horrible) would hardly catch the notice of the world beyond Bethlehem--particularly in light of Herod's known brutality.

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Thirdly, it makes no difference whether Matthew wanted Jesus to be seen as the new Moses; it only matters whether He was or not, and in what ways or with what differences.
Neither Mark nor Luke nor John present Jesus as the new Moses. It is a way of interpreting Jesus. It is not the only way. Seldom do I present Jesus as a "new Moses" in a sermon, unless I'm preaching on Matthew.

Well, why would you?

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Fourthly, you encouraged people to think it is okay not to believe the parts of the Bible they don't like.

I encourage people to believe the message of the Bible.

Whatever that message might be, huh? Whatever they think it might be, or hope it might be on any given day.

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And lastly, we live in a world where God does indeed allow children to be slaughtered rather routinely.
Yup, and one of the points I plan to make in my sermon is that we should be ranting and raving to God, pounding on his door, keeping him up all night because such evil continues to happenin our world. The kingdom Jesus said was near doesn't seem so near when children are slaughtered or starve to death or die because they lacked medical care.

So on the Festival of Holy Innocents, you preach about the need for affordable health care? OK then.

I can see clearly from your posts why there needs to be both an LCMS and an ELCA. I could not, in good conscience, preach the text as you suggest, and you couldn't do it the way I do. We belong in different church bodies.

Or maybe different universes?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 27, 2007, 04:48:11 PM
I can see clearly from your posts why there needs to be both an LCMS and an ELCA. I could not, in good conscience, preach the text as you suggest, and you couldn't do it the way I do. We belong in different church bodies.

So can I take this as an affirmation of my critique re: the theology you're here advocating?  That it is, in fact, a different Gospel in the ways that I have indicated above (and to which I haven't received a clear response)?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2007, 09:43:24 PM
That is, namely, by making the historicity of Jesus' ministry, death, resurrection and ascension an optional part of theology rather than something that is integral to what it means to be Christian, you are teaching a different theology, a different narrative, a different Gospel.  It doesn't matter that you may happen to believe that these things happened; what matters is that, according to the theology you are espousing, they are, strictly speaking, inconsequential to the Christian message.  This is not historic Christianity.  Rather, historic Christianity insists on both the "now-ness" of the proclamation that God uses to change hearts and minds, but the content of that proclamation is to bring into the present, through the Word, what God has in fact done for us -- sent His beloved Son in the power of the Spirit to suffer and die on our behalf and rise for our salvation.  THERE IS NO DICHOTOMY BETWEEN WHAT GOD HAS DONE AND IS DOING -- BOTH ARE PART AND PARCEL OF THE CHRISTIAN PROCLAMATION (sorry for yelling).
However, when historicity of the stories becomes as important as the more-than-historical/factual meaning, one gets a theology, which I have actually heard, of people making a belief in a six-24 hour days of creation essential for Christianity; or, some, who are less literal, will concede that one day is like a 1000 years, so that there could be six 1000-year periods. I talked to a minister who is convinced and his brand of Christianity requires believing that there were no such animals as dinosaurs living on the planet, because they are not mentioned in the Bible and the don't find into the short time spand. The fossils we find were created that way by God to confuse in believers.

You may argue that the OT is different than the gospels, but I think that the literalism and historicism you are espousing for the gospels naturally leads to such convictions about the OT. If you are willing to adopt such an understanding of Genesis 1, you are, at least, consistent that the historical factuality has to be as important as contemporary meaning and proclamation. (The minister I am referring to above is retired LCMS.)

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BTW -- in relation to the idea that the resurrected Jesus had a physical body, you are making arguments that is similar to the Reformed side of the debates in Reformation times.  That is, since Jesus has a real, physical body and it's located at the right hand of the Father in heaven, how can it be present in the Eucharist?  How does it never seem to run out?  Is it just really, really big?  Of course, all these questions are silly when you're talking about the power of God who can do what He likes with physical bodies.  But what you're saying is different again because they did accept that the risen Christ had some type of physical body, though of exactly what type we cannot say.
While I may be sounding Reformed-like, that isn't the argument I've presented, but I simply look at the statement Paul makes about resurrected bodies: they are spiritual (pneumatikos) bodies. He even states in the midst of talking about the resurrected "spiritual body": "The first Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor 15:45). Isn't he writing about Jesus as the "last Adam"? Of course, one way out of this is to argue that Paul is talking about our resurrected bodies, which will be spiritual; and not Jesus' resurrected body, which, like his life on earth, was unique.

One of the things I see in biblical studies and biblical theology is that it is a whole lot messier than systematics. Verses and images and statements don't always neatly fit together.

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BTW #2 -- Check out John 21:13.  Here, Jesus takes bread and fish and gives it to the disciples. Perhaps he levitated it?
Do such questions help understand the meaning of the passage? Why was this story remembered? Why was this story significant in John's community (and then for us)? "John," or whoever added this epilogue, certainly intends it to be connected with the feeding of the 5000. Those are the only two places in the NT that a particular word for fish is used. It is often argued that the feeding miracle is John's teaching on the Eucharist. Which suggests that both of these "fish" stories have meanings related to the celebration on Holy Communion. (It's been argued, and I think they are pursuasive, that the continued celebration of the eucharist grew out of these post-easter eating stories rather than just what happened in the upper room. Jesus was present in the disciples' eating at Emmaus and on the shore.

John 21 also has many other more-than-historical/factual meanings, such as 153 fish being a symbol for all nations, such as the connection between the word helko found in 21:6, 11 and its use in 6:44; 12:32; and 18:10. Hauling in the fish is similar to what Jesus does in drawing all people to himself. Peter's actions in hauling in fish is in contrast to his drawing out his sword.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Dave_Poedel on July 27, 2007, 10:06:14 PM
Again, Brian, you are engaging in a sort of gnosticism.  By applying "secret knowledge" that is not readily discerable to those plainly reading the text, you are doing the same thing the Roman Church did with the Scripture with their allegorizing everything.  Didn't we have a Reformation about this?  Maybe it's time for a new Reformation to recover the plain meaning of Scripture from the gnosticizing approach by this "higher" criticism of the Holy Scripture.

ENOUGH!
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 27, 2007, 10:10:44 PM
When the texts are not important anyway, as they aren't for those of Brian's ilk, it doesn't matter, and you can twist them and turn them and make them say whatever you want. Brian, ultimately, is a charismatic/enthusiast who doesn't need the text, nor reality of the texts. All that matters is the "transformational" nature of the texts.

Brian does not even clearly affirm that he believes that the resurrection of Christ's body is a fact.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 27, 2007, 10:29:12 PM
That is, namely, by making the historicity of Jesus' ministry, death, resurrection and ascension an optional part of theology rather than something that is integral to what it means to be Christian, you are teaching a different theology, a different narrative, a different Gospel.  It doesn't matter that you may happen to believe that these things happened; what matters is that, according to the theology you are espousing, they are, strictly speaking, inconsequential to the Christian message.  This is not historic Christianity.  Rather, historic Christianity insists on both the "now-ness" of the proclamation that God uses to change hearts and minds, but the content of that proclamation is to bring into the present, through the Word, what God has in fact done for us -- sent His beloved Son in the power of the Spirit to suffer and die on our behalf and rise for our salvation.  THERE IS NO DICHOTOMY BETWEEN WHAT GOD HAS DONE AND IS DOING -- BOTH ARE PART AND PARCEL OF THE CHRISTIAN PROCLAMATION (sorry for yelling).
However, when historicity of the stories becomes as important as the more-than-historical/factual meaning, one gets a theology, which I have actually heard, of people making a belief in a six-24 hour days of creation essential for Christianity; or, some, who are less literal, will concede that one day is like a 1000 years, so that there could be six 1000-year periods. I talked to a minister who is convinced and his brand of Christianity requires believing that there were no such animals as dinosaurs living on the planet, because they are not mentioned in the Bible and the don't find into the short time spand. The fossils we find were created that way by God to confuse in believers.

You may argue that the OT is different than the gospels, but I think that the literalism and historicism you are espousing for the gospels naturally leads to such convictions about the OT. If you are willing to adopt such an understanding of Genesis 1, you are, at least, consistent that the historical factuality has to be as important as contemporary meaning and proclamation. (The minister I am referring to above is retired LCMS.)

Is it just me, or has this not yet responded to my point?  One second, we were talking about "Jesus Remembered" (the title of the thread) and I was, in effect, pointing out that there had to be something that had happened to be remembered, and now we're onto dinosaurs and fossils?

Anyway.

My point, for the fourth time, is that there need be no dichotomy or tension between the reality / facticity of Jesus suffering, death, resurrection and ascension (along with its canonical interpretation) and the present-day proclamation of what Jesus has actually done for us, a proclamation that the Spirit uses to convert us, to regenerate us.  To put the two in tension is neither scriptural nor in line with the classic Christian proclamation.  It changes the very structure of Christian theology so that the Christian story itself is told in another manner.

This is to say, that this is another Gospel.

And we do know what Paul says about that in Gal 1.

Would you care to respond directly to this critique?  You do realize that my point is that Paul is right about the seriousness of proclaiming another Gospel -- even if it is proclaimed by angels in heaven or by Paul himself.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Mike Bennett on July 27, 2007, 10:35:45 PM

I can see clearly from your posts why there needs to be both an LCMS and an ELCA. I could not, in good conscience, preach the text as you suggest, and you couldn't do it the way I do. We belong in different church bodies.

And yet, several ELCA pastors here would, I think, preach the text much more as Peter suggests rather than as you suggest.  And as one of them pointed out a few replies downstream, the Church has forever interpreted the text much more as Peter suggests.  I don't think it's realistic to suggest that your way is the ELCA way.  There is in fact a current discussion going on in ELCA pitting "your" way against "Peter's" way of interpreting Scripture.  I think it's useful for the LCMS participants in this forum to know that; presumably the ELCA participants already did know it.

Mike Bennett
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 27, 2007, 10:49:09 PM
BTW #2 -- Check out John 21:13.  Here, Jesus takes bread and fish and gives it to the disciples. Perhaps he levitated it?
Do such questions help understand the meaning of the passage? Why was this story remembered? Why was this story significant in John's community (and then for us)? "John," or whoever added this epilogue, certainly intends it to be connected with the feeding of the 5000. Those are the only two places in the NT that a particular word for fish is used. It is often argued that the feeding miracle is John's teaching on the Eucharist. Which suggests that both of these "fish" stories have meanings related to the celebration on Holy Communion. (It's been argued, and I think they are pursuasive, that the continued celebration of the eucharist grew out of these post-easter eating stories rather than just what happened in the upper room. Jesus was present in the disciples' eating at Emmaus and on the shore.

John 21 also has many other more-than-historical/factual meanings, such as 153 fish being a symbol for all nations, such as the connection between the word helko found in 21:6, 11 and its use in 6:44; 12:32; and 18:10. Hauling in the fish is similar to what Jesus does in drawing all people to himself. Peter's actions in hauling in fish is in contrast to his drawing out his sword.

I don't have any problems with the various connections you are making here.  My point is, quite simply, that you can ask all these questions, make all these connections while at the same time pointing out that Jesus actually did this thereby authorizing these various connections in fact and not just in poetic theory.  Once again, there is no tension at all between the facticity of these events, their inspired interpretation and present-day proclamation.  They all fit together seemlessly.  But if the facticity is abandoned, the power of the proclamation is abandoned because it becomes the recitation of a fable.

But that, of course, was not my point in the BTW #2.  It was addressing your claim that Jesus did not have a some type of physical body where he could actually pick up bread and fish and eat the fish (as in Luke).  You had mentioned previously that if Thomas had touched Jesus, he wouldn't have touched anything.  These post-resurrection stories indicate that Jesus' resurrected body was of such a type that physical activities -- even eating -- could be engaged in.  So while you addressed something that was not my point in my BTW #2, it does illustrate the point that I'm trying to make and which I still don't see you as clearly responding to.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 27, 2007, 11:54:01 PM
And, of course, the interpretation of the church for two millenia. I don't disagree with Peter, though I might be more inclined to say the reverse is also true: The Bible says it happened because it happened.
Which is also one of the human interpretive ways of approaching scriptures.

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Oh, I don't think so. Think about textual criticism: scholars generally assume the the "most difficult reading" is most likely to be original. Besides, lest we forget, Bethlehem was a nothing backwater town of low population. Herod's slaughter of all the children under two (which likely wouldn't be all that many children, though obviously still horrible) would hardly catch the notice of the world beyond Bethlehem--particularly in light of Herod's known brutality.
But we aren't dealing with textual criticism. We do not have copies of Matthew with the text and other copies without it.

You are right that the number of children living in Bethlehem at the time were not great. For those whose human interpretive approach requires the story to be historical and factually true, this, as well as Herod's cruel nature, such as murdering some of his own relatives, are used to support that interpretation. However, that doesn't answer the question: What message is Matthew (or God, if you will,) telling us through this story? Why does Matthew remember this story (and none of the other gospel writers do)?

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Whatever that message might be, huh? Whatever they think it might be, or hope it might be on any given day.
Every message of the Bible is what someone thought it might be. When enough people come up with the same message, that becomes standard; but, nearly every edition of the Journal of Biblical Literature, there is an essay that takes exception to some standard message from scriptures and argues for a new or revised interpretation. My guess is that biblical studies are not too different from historical studies. The biases of the author and their particular methods and paradigms affect the way they see and interpret historical events.

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So on the Festival of Holy Innocents, you preach about the need for affordable health care? OK then.
No, that may be part of the sermon for 9 Pentecost C. Since Jesus doesn't seem to be healing mutlitudes any more, like the Bible reports, we might find other ways to bring healing and wholeness and shalom to the world.

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Or maybe different universes?
Certainly, or as Borg argues, different paradigms for seeing Jesus. He suggests that "perhaps the major conflict in American Christanity today" is "between two very different paradigms for seeing the 'data' of Christianity: the Bible (including the gospels), Jesus, postbiblical teachings and doctrines (including the creeds), the nature of Christian language, and ultimately the nature of the Christian life. Both are Christian paradigms -- millions of Christiand affirm each. So it is not that one of them is Christian and the other is not. And it is not that one of them is 'traditional' Christianity and the other an abandonment of much of the Christian tradition. Rather, both are ways of seeing the Christian tradition and what it says about the Bible, God, Jesus, and what it means to follow him." (p. 15)

As he describes the "earlier" or "belief-centered" or "literal" paradigm, it sounds very much like what the LCMS people are espousing here. When he describes the "emerging" or "way-centered" or "metaphorical" paradigm, it's very close to what have been taught and espouse. These ways of seeing the universe are different and they are often in conflict. Just like starting with a belief that the earth is the center of the universe will affect the way one sees and interprets movements of the heavenly bodies (which was the normal way of understanding the universe for about 1500 years, and could predict some things quite accurately). However, in the 1500s and 1600s Copernicus and Galileo offered a radically different way of understanding the universe. They moved the earth out of the center and put the sun at the center of what is now "a solar system". That change in the overall understanding of the universe affects the way everything else is seen and interpreted.

It is not inaccurate to state that we are in two different universes. We see the world of the Bible as differently as Ptolemy (earth-centered) and Copernicus (sun-centered) saw the universe.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 27, 2007, 11:57:45 PM
When the texts are not important anyway, as they aren't for those of Brian's ilk, it doesn't matter, and you can twist them and turn them and make them say whatever you want. Brian, ultimately, is a charismatic/enthusiast who doesn't need the text, nor reality of the texts. All that matters is the "transformational" nature of the texts.

Brian does not even clearly affirm that he believes that the resurrection of Christ's body is a fact.

OK, McCain, Benke, the word "ilk" is hereby banned from further use. (Unless I use it, of course.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2007, 12:15:48 AM
And yet, several ELCA pastors here would, I think, preach the text much more as Peter suggests rather than as you suggest.
I note that you qualified which ELCA pastors would preach in Peter's way -- those "here". I'm not sure that the ELCA pastors in this forum are an adequate sampling of ELCA clergy. There are a whole lot of them who are more like Charlies and I out there -- but they tend not to read Lutheran Forum or Forum Letter.

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And as one of them pointed out a few replies downstream, the Church has forever interpreted the text much more as Peter suggests.  

That could be someone's doctorate thesis -- to delve into the historical and contempoary commentaries on Matthew 2 and see how many of the stress the historicity of the event or skim or skip over that to what meaning(s) they believe Matthew implied by including the story. I do know that at one time in history, allegory was seen as the normal way of interpreting scriptures.

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I don't think it's realistic to suggest that your way is the ELCA way.  There is in fact a current discussion going on in ELCA pitting "your" way against "Peter's" way of interpreting Scripture.  I think it's useful for the LCMS participants in this forum to know that; presumably the ELCA participants already did know it.

The "United Testimony on Faith and Life," which was approved by the Uniting Churches at their Conventions in 1952, prior to the formation of TALC contains this statement (emphasis added): "The Bible is the Word of God, given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit through human personalities in the course of human history. ... We acknowledge with humble gratitude the condescending love of God in speaking to men through the agency of human language. We reject all rationalizing processes which would explain away either the divine or the human factor in the Bible." From that point on, Lutheranism had a paradigm of viewing the Bible as God speaking to us through human authors -- that it wasn't just God speaking to us, but God speaking to us through Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc. We see the writers' personalities in the Bible. We see the writers' emphases and nuances. We approach the books as human writings written in human history that are vehicles for the Divine Word.

For full disclosure, the paragraph that precedes the quoted one says: "We bear witness that the Bible is our only authentic and infallible source of God's revelation to us and all men, and that it is the only inerrant and competely adequate source and norm of Christian doctrine and life. We hold that the bible, as a whole and in all its parts, is the Word of God under all circumstances regardless of man's attitude toward it."

What was new in this section is that the words "inerrant" and "infallible" were applied only to "Christian doctrine and life." This left open the possibility that the Bible did error in other matters, such as science or, might we even say, history?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2007, 12:25:08 AM
But if the facticity is abandoned, the power of the proclamation is abandoned because it becomes the recitation of a fable.
I think that's a false dichotomy. Parables are powerful proclamations -- perhaps the most powerful things Jesus said; and their power is not based on their facticity. Myths are powerful stories in perhaps every religion and their power is not based on their facticity. (Technically the word "myth" does not necessarily mean something made up. They can be based on historical events, but that isn't where their power comes.)

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You had mentioned previously that if Thomas had touched Jesus, he wouldn't have touched anything.

Not quite. I said that if Thomas had touched the hole in Jesus' hand, he would have touched nothing.

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These post-resurrection stories indicate that Jesus' resurrected body was of such a type that physical activities -- even eating -- could be engaged in.  So while you addressed something that was not my point in my BTW #2, it does illustrate the point that I'm trying to make and which I still don't see you as clearly responding to.
The Jesus in the story of John 21 is portrayed as having a physical body. The Jesus portrayed in the first appearnce story in Luke 24 does not seem to have a physical body, because it disappeared and was not recognized as Jesus, until the great theological moment of breaking bread; but the Jesus in the second appearance is portrayed has having a physical body of flesh and bones that they could touch; and he ate before them. Yet, this same Jesus, was carried away into heaven. In the stories of the risen Jesus' appearances to Paul in Acts he does not have a physical body -- unless light is considered something physical.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Dan Fienen on July 28, 2007, 01:20:04 AM

For full disclosure, the paragraph that precedes the quoted one says: "We bear witness that the Bible is our only authentic and infallible source of God's revelation to us and all men, and that it is the only inerrant and competely adequate source and norm of Christian doctrine and life. We hold that the bible, as a whole and in all its parts, is the Word of God under all circumstances regardless of man's attitude toward it."

What was new in this section is that the words "inerrant" and "infallible" were applied only to "Christian doctrine and life." This left open the possibility that the Bible did error in other matters, such as science or, might we even say, history?

Brian,

Perhaps I have gotten confused, so correct me if I misrepresent you.  Can I take it that you would agree that it is possibile that the Bible did err in matters of science or history?  And that such errors should not be considered significant since what is important for us is the more than literal or factual meaning that the Biblical stories teach?  Is this your position?  If I have understood you incorrectly, please clarify.

However, is not the discernment of the more than literal or factual meaning that the Biblical stories teach and hence the "Christian doctrine and life" taught therein also a matter of interpretation?  I read a story and it says something to me in my life situation and interacting with my life story.  Someone else reads the same story who is at a different place in her/his life and with a different life story and the Bible story tells them something else.  It may even mean to them something opposite to what it said to me.  Whose interpretation should be privileged?  Is it even legitimate to ask who is right and who is wrong?  Both interpretations appear valid to the person interpreting the story for its true significance.

In what way then would it be meaningful to talk about the Bible being "inerrant" and "infallible" or even authoritative?  Perhaps its significance is that these stories resonated and were seen as meaningful for the followers of Jesus who first wrote them down and for the communities that remembered and in which they were recorded.  They have been meaningful - inspirational - for believers who have continued to read, tell and meditate upon them through the ages.  So also they are meaningful and inspirational for believers today even if they do not derive the same meaning from the stories.  (Or not if they do not appeal, like the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem to the couple attending a service, in which case why not discard them from my personal canon of meaningful Bible stories?)   We have a continuity of stories even if not a continuity of belief about what the stories mean.  Is this the faith handed down by the fathers?

Is there any way in which a preacher, or a church body could say of a Bible story that it means this and not that?  Or even if we cannot determine what it "really" means, rule out some suggested meanings?  Is the only absolute truth we have that we have no absolute truths?  And do we know this absolutely?

If a story can mean anything at all, that is it has no definate meaning but has whatever meaning the reader assigns it, can it actually mean or teach anything?  Do not the Bible stories (especially since their meaningfulness do not lie in their reportage of historic events - which they may or may not have done with undeterminable degrees of accuracy) become a kind of Rorschach inkblots, meaningless in themselves until the reader pours meaning into them, what they mean to me?

Is this your understanding of the faith?

D. F.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 28, 2007, 07:25:40 AM
OK, McCain, Benke, the word "ilk" is hereby banned from further use. (Unless I use it, of course.)

But it's such a fun word, both to say out loud and write. But, I understand you are of the ilk that doesn't like it so much...so, ok.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 28, 2007, 09:07:49 AM
But if the facticity is abandoned, the power of the proclamation is abandoned because it becomes the recitation of a fable.
I think that's a false dichotomy. Parables are powerful proclamations -- perhaps the most powerful things Jesus said; and their power is not based on their facticity. Myths are powerful stories in perhaps every religion and their power is not based on their facticity. (Technically the word "myth" does not necessarily mean something made up. They can be based on historical events, but that isn't where their power comes.)

Yuck.  Slogging through mud again.

I'm not talking about the parables that Jesus told -- I am talking about the things that I have mentioned repeatedly, i.e., the suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascenscion of Jesus (I was going to substitute to the word "we" for "I" in this sentence, but I realized that that would be false -- we have not been talking about much of anything except what apparently comes to mind at the time).

But in any case, my point has always been that you cannot and must not separate the facticity of Jesus suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension from the proclamation of it.  So when we are talking about what Jesus actually did for us, there is no dichotomy between the two.  BUT YOU ARE SAYING THAT THERE IS -- THAT ONE CAN TAKE OR LEAVE WHAT JESUS ACTUALLY DID FOR US AND STILL HAVE THE MESSAGE.

To repeat, I am not speaking of Jesus' parables, but of his suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.

Think you can stay on that point?

Not quite. I said that if Thomas had touched the hole in Jesus' hand, he would have touched nothing.

So your only point was that someone who "touches" a hole actually touches nothing?  Geez.  Thanks for the help.

The Jesus in the story of John 21 is portrayed as having a physical body. The Jesus portrayed in the first appearnce story in Luke 24 does not seem to have a physical body, because it disappeared and was not recognized as Jesus, until the great theological moment of breaking bread; but the Jesus in the second appearance is portrayed has having a physical body of flesh and bones that they could touch; and he ate before them. Yet, this same Jesus, was carried away into heaven. In the stories of the risen Jesus' appearances to Paul in Acts he does not have a physical body -- unless light is considered something physical.

Yet if the Jesus of John 21 has a physical body, it's pretty clear that the one of chapter 20, being the same Jesus, also has a physical body.  Surely it is a type of body that can do things ours can't (which is also in line with the teachings on glorified bodies in general), but it is physical in some sense.  There is nothing in that story to contradict such a reading.  Likewise in Luke 24, Jesus actually had to pick up bread to break it (unless he levitated it again).  So there, too, we see a physical body.

The point being that talking about the resurrected Jesus having a physical body is scriptural, even by your own admission.  To say that he does not would contradict Scripture.


But, again, to return for a fifth time to my main point, I'll just quote myself:

My point, for the fourth time, is that there need be no dichotomy or tension between the reality / facticity of Jesus suffering, death, resurrection and ascension (along with its canonical interpretation) and the present-day proclamation of what Jesus has actually done for us, a proclamation that the Spirit uses to convert us, to regenerate us.  To put the two in tension is neither scriptural nor in line with the classic Christian proclamation.  It changes the very structure of Christian theology so that the Christian story itself is told in another manner.

This is to say, that this is another Gospel.

And we do know what Paul says about that in Gal 1.

Would you care to respond directly to this critique?  You do realize that my point is that Paul is right about the seriousness of proclaiming another Gospel -- even if it is proclaimed by angels in heaven or by Paul himself.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2007, 12:08:52 PM
Perhaps I have gotten confused, so correct me if I misrepresent you.  Can I take it that you would agree that it is possibile that the Bible did err in matters of science or history?  And that such errors should not be considered significant since what is important for us is the more than literal or factual meaning that the Biblical stories teach?  Is this your position?  If I have understood you incorrectly, please clarify.
Yes, and, that is the way I remember be taught in seminary 30+ years ago, and how, I believed the United Testimony of 1952 was understood. Thus it is not a new way of thinking within Lutheranism.


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However, is not the discernment of the more than literal or factual meaning that the Biblical stories teach and hence the "Christian doctrine and life" taught therein also a matter of interpretation?  I read a story and it says something to me in my life situation and interacting with my life story.  Someone else reads the same story who is at a different place in her/his life and with a different life story and the Bible story tells them something else.  It may even mean to them something opposite to what it said to me.  Whose interpretation should be privileged?  Is it even legitimate to ask who is right and who is wrong?  Both interpretations appear valid to the person interpreting the story for its true significance.
I think Luther opened up that possibility when he believed every believer should have a Bible in their own language so that they can read and interpret it for themselves. He trusted that the Spirit (and I think he might add, the church) would guide them into right interpretations. We know that this doesn't always happen.

Borg talks about avoiding "uncritical subjectivity." There are two forms of this. (1) All the differences interpretive differences are tolerated and considered valid because they are subjunctive. It's all a matter of "where you're coming from." (2) A failure to recognize one's own subjectivity where views are presented as dogmatic certainty that "this is the way things are."

The corrective he suggests to uncritical subjectivity is to (1) be critical about one's own subjectivity, which means (2) putting one's positions in critical dialogue with others -- engaging in "public argument." However, the "public argument" is not just stating: "This is the way I see things," period, but includes why one sees things the way one does. As he writes: "It provides reasons for the perspective and the conclusions to which it leads -- and all of it subject to public examination and evaluation: does it make sense?" (pp. 294-295)

I've frequently quoted Mark Allan Powell, who writes about "reader-response criticism." This method is subjective. It starts with the observation that different people read the Bible differently and it asks why this is so. He writes under a section called "Theological Evaluation," "... it [a reader-response interpretation] is necessarily autobiographical and subjective. It need not be entirely autobiographical and subjective...." (Chasing the Easter Star, p. 175)

A little later he sums up the section: "Thus, the standard fro truth is not the bible per se but the gospel of Jesus Christ, and all interpretations of the Bible (expected readings and unexpected ones) must be evaluated in light of this. the Bible remains authoritative because the gospel itself is derived from the Bible. Protestants recognize this as the principle of 'scripture interpreting scripture.' Lutehrans recognize it as the principle of 'a canon within the canon.'" (p. 180)

Earlier he lists some norms in coming to reader-response interpretations. This include (1) reading a work in its entirety. Even before reading his book, whenever I taught a biblical course, I asked the students to read through the entire book, preferably in one sitting. (2) Reading it in sequential order -- from beginning to end. We assume that's the way the author intended the work to be read. (Powell tells about a friend who always reads the last chapter of a mystery first. That is not what the author intended the readers to do.) (3) Knowledge of the language that the text is written in. With my two years of high school German, I could pronounce the words in a German text, but I wouldn't be able to interpret the text. (4) Knowledge of literary styles. We should know that letters to the editor should not be intepreted in quite the same way as the front-page news stories. Such norms would be part of the arguments of why someone responds to a text the way they do.

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In what way then would it be meaningful to talk about the Bible being "inerrant" and "infallible" or even authoritative? 

At least in the ELCA, we don't talk about "inerrant" and "infallible". Those terms are problematic. Our confession is:    "This congregation accepts the canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and the authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life." (C2.03.) The Bible is the authoritative source and norm for the congregation's proclamation, faith, and life. (Yet, in some congregations, many if not most of the council members haven't been in a Bible class since confirmation. As one speaker suggested, "Many of our congregations are run by a bunch of people with an eighth grade [biblical] education."

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Perhaps its significance is that these stories resonated and were seen as meaningful for the followers of Jesus who first wrote them down and for the communities that remembered and in which they were recorded.  They have been meaningful - inspirational - for believers who have continued to read, tell and meditate upon them through the ages.  So also they are meaningful and inspirational for believers today even if they do not derive the same meaning from the stories.  (Or not if they do not appeal, like the slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem to the couple attending a service, in which case why not discard them from my personal canon of meaningful Bible stories?)   We have a continuity of stories even if not a continuity of belief about what the stories mean.  Is this the faith handed down by the fathers?
I would go beyond "meaningful" as the reason these stories were remembered and written down and preserved and used for centuries -- they are also powerful. They transform people's lives. People are encountered by God in these stories. As our Confession of Faith states: the Gospe is "the power of God for salvation to all who believe" and "Through them [Scriptures] God's Spirit speaks to us to create and sustain Christian faith and fellowship for service in the world."

Luther did consider discarding James from the Canon. For Lutherans some writings are more important (powerful) than others -- and that's OK.

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Is there any way in which a preacher, or a church body could say of a Bible story that it means this and not that?  Or even if we cannot determine what it "really" means, rule out some suggested meanings?  Is the only absolute truth we have that we have no absolute truths?  And do we know this absolutely?
Yes. Our ELCA's Confession of faith is in a priority order. Our understanding of the Trinity comes first. Interpretations that deny that truth are wrong. At the same time, the doctrine of the Trinity doesn't necessarily lock us into a particular language about the Trinity. As I noted somewhere else in this vast forum of notes: sometimes the word "God" refers to the Triune Being and this uncludes "Father, Son, and Holy Spirit." Sometimes "God," like in 2 Cor 13:13, refers to the First Person and is thus distinguished from the other persons of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Our second confession of faith declares that Jesus is our Lord and Savior and the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. Interpretations that deny these facts are wrong.

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If a story can mean anything at all, that is it has no definate meaning but has whatever meaning the reader assigns it, can it actually mean or teach anything?  Do not the Bible stories (especially since their meaningfulness do not lie in their reportage of historic events - which they may or may not have done with undeterminable degrees of accuracy) become a kind of Rorschach inkblots, meaningless in themselves until the reader pours meaning into them, what they mean to me?
I believe that it is the job of an exegete to try and determine what the author intended the text to mean. We use historical-critical and narrative-critical tools to help discern the intended meaning(s) of the author. To use Powell's terms, a reader's interpretation may be what we deem to be an "intended" reading or an "unintended" reading. An unintended meaning -- something that we believe the author did not intended -- may not necessarily be wrong, if it falls within our understanding of the gospel as the power of God for salvation. For example, if readers interpret Matthew 2 and the slaughter of the children as God telling them to work for universal health care at least for children so that no child needs die because of lack of medical care -- that is, I think, an unintended reading. Matthew didn't have that in mind when sharing the story. However, I think that it could be argued that such an interpretation fits in with God's kingdom of shalom for all people -- the coming kingdom that was prefigured by Jesus healing diseases and blessing and healing children. Health care for children is good news. I wouldn't say that such an interpretation is "wrong," but probably unintended by the author; but it could be what God intended the person to hear from the passage.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 28, 2007, 12:26:19 PM
Cutting through the verbiage, the bottom line remains:

Any interpretation that does not confess that Christ rose bodily from the grave and appeared bodily and visibly to his followers after his death is not acceptable in the Christian Church.

Endless speculations about "intentionality" finally are useless.

The text states what is intended: to teach us that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, truly, bodily, physically. If he did not, as Paul says, then we are truly among all men most to be pitied.

Suggesting that all these historical facts do not matter, or may be denied, is simply not the faith of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church, which, thankfully has seen heretical notions like Borg's come, and go.

I've said it before, but I still can find no difference at all in how Brian is approaching the Gospel texts than how one could well use Aesop's Fables or Grimm's Fairy Tales. They all contain truth, they can all be transformational, while they can all be absolutely factually untrue, which is irrelevant to their power to transform.

That's precisely what I hear being advocated over against the inspired texts of the Gospels.

Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2007, 12:42:50 PM
I'm not talking about the parables that Jesus told -- I am talking about the things that I have mentioned repeatedly, i.e., the suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascenscion of Jesus (I was going to substitute to the word "we" for "I" in this sentence, but I realized that that would be false -- we have not been talking about much of anything except what apparently comes to mind at the time).
But what we have about the suffering, curcifixion, resurrection, and ascension are stories of the events. We don't have a video-tape. These stories are not accounts from eyewitnesses, unless one maintains that Matthew, Mark, and John were part of the original 12 -- even though none of the gospels state who wrote them. I am arguing that these stories from the time they were written, were meant to be understood as more-than-literal and more-than-factual stories.

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But in any case, my point has always been that you cannot and must not separate the facticity of Jesus suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension from the proclamation of it.  So when we are talking about what Jesus actually did for us, there is no dichotomy between the two.  BUT YOU ARE SAYING THAT THERE IS -- THAT ONE CAN TAKE OR LEAVE WHAT JESUS ACTUALLY DID FOR US AND STILL HAVE THE MESSAGE.
I am saying that the gospel stories are not all that clear about exactly what Jesus did for us. I am certain that he suffered and was crucified. Part of that certainty is the fact that all four gospels are pretty similar in their stories of his suffering and crucifixion. In a sense, to argue against what I said above, it is like having four eyewitness report the same or similar things about an event. If they all agree, it is more likely that it happened as they have told the story. There is agreement in the gospels about the empty tomb. There is agreement about a resurrection, both in the gospels and other NT writings. Where there are wide differences is in the stories of the appearances of the risen Jesus. No two gospels contain the same stories. How should we approach those stories? The accounts of the ascension are even more problematic. They occur twice, by the same author, but one happens on Easter evening and the other 40 days later. That makes trying to see the stories as historical and factual difficult, if not impossible. We can say that the developing tradition of Jesus included the ascension. We confess it in our creeds. Thus Luke's stories with Jesus leaving the disciples by the ascension, so that the Spirit might come, took precedence over Matthew's ending where the abiding presence of Jesus is affirmed -- and there is no ascension. Matthew tells us that Jesus will be with us wherever two or three gather in his name. Luke and John have Jesus leaving and his presence is replaced by the Holy Spirit. Those are different theologies (ways of talking about God).

I'm arguing, as I do for any miracle stories, that we look for the meaning(s) of the event; which is what I am calling a parabolic interpretation of the story. I don't think that the stories are told just to inform us, "This is what happened." That is part of it, but asking questions such as "Why does Matthew include this story?" "How does it fit into his entire work?" I think that it is significant and part of Matthew's message that at the beginning of Jesus' life and at the end, the idea of Emmanuel: "God with us / I am with you always" are affirmed.

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To repeat, I am not speaking of Jesus' parables, but of his suffering, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
To repeat, I am talking about the stories we have of Jesus' suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension.

A difference in approaches to scriptures that is suggested by Borg are those who approach scriptures through a doctrinal lens. The later doctrine, as confessed in the creeds is that Jesus ascended into heaven. So the ascension is assumed when we read any of the gospels. The later doctrine of the Trinity declares that in terms of being God, Jesus and the Spirit are one, even though two different persons; so from a this doctrinal point of view, it doesn't matter than Matthew talks about Jesus' abiding presence, and Luke and John talk about the Spirit's abiding presence.

The other approach, is to assume that such well-defined doctrines that developed over the years, are not present in the scriptures, and we study each Gospel on its own merits. We take each gospel, I think, more seriously when we do not try to impose later doctrinal matters onto the writings. Matthew has a different theology than Mark, Luke, and John. The ascension is not part of his story. Resurrection appearances are not part of Mark's story. I believe that we need to take those differences seriously. God gave us four different gospels.

I think that when you talk about suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, you are speaking doctrinally, e.g., what we confess in our creeds. I am talking about the stories in the gospels (and in Acts and Paul where they relate to these events). Doctrines are important. As I noted elsewhere, interpretations that deny the gospel are false interpretations. However, trying to fit something like the Ascension or Pentecost into Matthew or Mark's stories of Jesus, is to misuse the stories God has given us. (This isn't to deny either event, but taking even more seriously the messages of Matthew and Mark.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2007, 01:03:04 PM
The text states what is intended: to teach us that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, truly, bodily, physically. If he did not, as Paul says, then we are truly among all men most to be pitied.
Paul insists that Christ was raised from the dead. Without that our preaching is "useless" and so is faith (1 Cor 15:14). He says that without the resurrection our faith is "futile" and we are still in our sins (1 Cor 15:17). He says, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all others" (1 Cor 15:19). However, he says nothing about "bodily, physically" in terms of Christ's resurrection. In fact, he describes the resurrected body as "spiritual" (1 Cor 15:44b). By analogy, he even indicates that Jesus, the last Adam, is "a life-giving spirit" (1 Cor 15:45).

I note that in our creeds we state: "On the third day he rose again". Insisting on a bodily or physically resurrection is not part of our confession. We confess that Jesus was raised from the dead. Scriptures sometimes presents the risen Jesus in bodily form and sometimes not. Since for the ELCA scriptures is the "authoritative source and norm of its proclamation, faith, and life." I will continue to proclaim, believe, and live what scriptures say.

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I've said it before, but I still can find no difference at all in how Brian is approaching the Gospel texts than how one could well use Aesop's Fables or Grimm's Fairy Tales. They all contain truth, they can all be transformational, while they can all be absolutely factually untrue, which is irrelevant to their power to transform.
If there were a Church of Aesop or a Church of Grimm, they probably would argue that the fables and tales are authoritative for their proclamation, faith, and life; just as worshipers of Thor or Odin or Zeus believed that tales about their gods were authoritative for their proclamation, faith, and life. Isn't that what distinguishes the religions? The stories they believe are authoritative for their proclamation, faith, and life?

Part of what makes you and I Christians is because we do believe the Bible is different from Aesop's Fables or Grimm's Fairy Tales. It's a matter of faith. It's not something that can be proved; except to witness how scriptures and the God revealed therein has changed our lives. (Thus my other thread about autobiographical theology.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on July 28, 2007, 01:12:04 PM
I think Luther opened up that possibility when he believed every believer should have a Bible in their own language so that they can read and interpret it for themselves. He trusted that the Spirit (and I think he might add, the church) would guide them into right interpretations. We know that this doesn't always happen.

Well, that's probably overstating it. Luther certainly believed the Scripture ought to be available in the vernacular. As to "every believer should have a Bible . . . so that they can read and interpret it for themselves"? Well, considering both the low literacy rate at the time, and the rather recent development of the printing press, I doubt Luther ever conceived that this would happen.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 28, 2007, 01:45:22 PM
I am arguing that these stories from the time they were written, were meant to be understood as more-tha-literal and more-than-factual stories.

But it also sounds like you are arguing that they are "less-than-literal" and "less-than-factual" stories.  My point is that the point is that what really happened has universal signficance rather than simply a local, only-at-that-time-in-history significance (take that modifier as a German extended adjective construction), and what actually happened authorizes the universal significance.  If it didn't happen (that is, if Jesus was not really crucified, resurrected and ascended), why do we care?  I know that I wouldn't.  Rather I cling to that fact that Jesus actually did something back then, and because he did, he now transforms my life by forgiving my sins and reconciling me to God because he has already reconciled God to us through Jesus' death and resurrection.

So rather than speaking of a "more-than-literal" or "more-than-factual" stories (which also, in your usage, implies that they are also "less-than..."), we can get the same sense by speaking of the universal significance, the for-us-ness of the stories of what Jesus really did.

I am saying that the gospel stories are not all that clear about exactly what Jesus did for us.  I am certain that he suffered and was crucified. Part of that certainty is the fact that all four gospels are pretty similar in their stories of his suffering and crucifixion. In a sense, to argue against what I said above, it is like having four eyewitness report the same or similar things about an event. If they all agree, it is more likely that it happened as they have told the story. There is agreement in the gospels about the empty tomb. There is agreement about a resurrection, both in the gospels and other NT writings.

This is to treat the accounts as "dead letters" to be dissected. Have you ever read Hans Frei's "The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative"?  It speaks to this point and gives a historical account of how biblical interpretation came from living within the biblical narrative to dissecting it based upon foreign presuppositions.  Some of these foreign presuppositions came about post-Descartes and were begininng to be codified with the publication of the "Port-Royal Logic" (which first introduced the principle of internal evidence).  It is to these presuppositions that you are appealing, and they are only a couple hundred years old in biblical interpretation and have done much to make the "scholarship" of the academy irrelevant to the life of the church.  Check out Jeffrey Stout's "The Flight from Authority" for an interesting analysis of how this shift in thinking (not necessarily Christian thinking) came about..

I'm arguing, as I do for any miracle stories, that we look for the meaning(s) of the event; which is what I am calling a parabolic interpretation of the story. I don't think that the stories are told just to inform us, "This is what happened." That is part of it, but asking questions such as "Why does Matthew include this story?" "How does it fit into his entire work?" I think that it is significant and part of Matthew's message that at the beginning of Jesus' life and at the end, the idea of Emmanuel: "God with us / I am with you always" are affirmed.

Noting the bolded, underlined and blued portion, I see that we agree on this.  I have never had a problem with saying that you need to ask what the stories mean, but that they refer to real events as well.  This is the dichotomy that I saw you drawing and still see you drawing elsewhere.  It creates needless controversy.

The other approach, is to assume that such well-defined doctrines that developed over the years, are not present in the scriptures, and we study each Gospel on its own merits.

If the doctrines the Church teaches (say, in the Nicene Creed) are not taught by Scripture, then no one is bound to them.  In fact, those who have taken them to be scriptural and therefore divine are blaspheming God by erroneously attributing teachings to Him.  This would seem to be the consequences of what you're saying.

It is also a strange assumption in other ways.  You seem to be saying that the community that was formed by the Scripture are precisely the ones incapable of interpreting it rightly.  Rather, according to this line of thinking, true interpretation occurs when precisely that community's interpretation is eschewed. 

This would also seem to indicate that my contention is correct -- that what you are saying is a de facto assertion of a competing narrative that is specifically asserted over against the way Christians have read their own book.  After all, the starting point is that Christians are reflecting things that are not in Scripture rather than what is taught by Scripture.  And as such, what you are advocating for is a different Gospel.


We take each gospel, I think, more seriously when we do not try to impose later doctrinal matters onto the writings.

See above, but this would be equivalent to saying that everyone else who has gone before has gotten it wrong, and only if we can get rid of those pesky Christian interpretations, we'll get at the real meaning.

Matthew has a different theology than Mark, Luke, and John. The ascension is not part of his story. Resurrection appearances are not part of Mark's story. I believe that we need to take those differences seriously. God gave us four different gospels.

They certainly do say different things to different communities, and there is a variety here.  The great part is that Christian proclamation can and has taken those differences seriously even as it maintains a consistent overarching narrative.

I think that when you talk about suffering, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, you are speaking doctrinally, e.g., what we confess in our creeds. I am talking about the stories in the gospels (and in Acts and Paul where they relate to these events). Doctrines are important. As I noted elsewhere, interpretations that deny the gospel are false interpretations.[/u] However, trying to fit something like the Ascension or Pentecost into Matthew or Mark's stories of Jesus, is to misuse the stories God has given us. (This isn't to deny either event, but taking even more seriously the messages of Matthew and Mark.)

So you see that doctrine does have a role in scriptural interpretation, even by your own admission (see bolded, underlined and blued portion).  Positing a false dichotomy between doctrine and scriptural interpretation simple leads to laying one set of doctrines by the side in order to adopt a different set.  As you mentioned above, you are saying that we should leave behind the way Christians read (and have read) Scripture by jettisoning Christian doctrine, but all that is substituted will be another set of doctrinal presuppositions, such as modes of evaluating eyewitness testimony (an example of the doctrine of "internal evidence" that gained currency in the 17th century) or your own doctrine where you explicitly assume that Christians have mis-read their own scriptures in stating their doctrines.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: pastorg1@aol.com on July 28, 2007, 01:52:16 PM
Here's the hard fact about the Bible:
It is God telling us these three things-

1. God is God.
2. We are not God.
3. We have to get used to it.

Pete (Jesus can do whatever Jesus wants to do with his risen and glorified body) Garrison

Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 28, 2007, 02:04:33 PM
Here's the hard fact about the Bible:
It is God telling us these three things-

1. God is God.
2. We are not God.
3. We have to get used to it.

Pete (Jesus can do whatever Jesus wants to do with his risen and glorified body) Garrison

I have a friend who has three lines from which he is relatively sure that he can derive all of Lutheran theology:

1. God is God
2. You are not
3. Don't seem right

Pretty similar, but I like the "Don't seem right" part better because our sinful nature simply does not like the situation at all.  We'd much rather be God.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2007, 06:01:29 PM
But it also sounds like you are arguing that they are "less-than-literal" and "less-than-factual" stories.
I have never said that. Borg never says that. That's an assumption you are making.

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My point is that the point is that what really happened has universal signficance rather than simply a local, only-at-that-time-in-history significance (take that modifier as a German extended adjective construction), and what actually happened authorizes the universal significance.  If it didn't happen (that is, if Jesus was not really crucified, resurrected and ascended), why do we care?  I know that I wouldn't.  Rather I cling to that fact that Jesus actually did something back then, and because he did, he now transforms my life by forgiving my sins and reconciling me to God because he has already reconciled God to us through Jesus' death and resurrection.
Jesus was really raised from the dead. Jesus really appeared to people after the resurrection. Whether the stories in the gospels and Acts are accurate, historical, and factual accounts of those appearances is the issue. Interpreting them parabolically, and saying that such an interpretation doesn't rely on the historicity of the story is not a denial of the resurrection or appearances by Jesus. It is saying that each gospel writer tells the appearance stories in ways that fit into their entire story of Jesus. (As Powell suggests, the normal way of reading a narrative is (a) all the way through, and (b) beginning to end.)

To repeat again my example, we know that the story as told in Mark 16:1-8 cannot be completely historically accurate. Silence about the resurrection of Jesus is not how the real events ended. At the same time, that literary ending, I think, fits perfectly well with Mark's portrayal of Jesus' disciples throughout the gospel -- every single one of them fails Jesus. At the same time, Jesus does not fail them. Jesus will appear to them in Galilee, whether the women tell anyone or not.

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So rather than speaking of a "more-than-literal" or "more-than-factual" stories (which also, in your usage, implies that they are also "less-than..."), we can get the same sense by speaking of the universal significance, the for-us-ness of the stories of what Jesus really did.
First of all, it is you that implies "less-than..." not I.

Secondly, there is truth in what you say about the "for-us-ness" of the stories. An interesting observation that Powell makes when conducting experiements in biblical studies with different groups. With clergy, he found that the questions about a text: "What does this mean?" and "What does this mean to you?" are understood as two different questions. With lay people, they don't make such a distinction. For them, "What does this mean?" implies, the autobiographical response: "What does this mean to you?"

He theorizes why clergy might respond differently. There is a sense that we, at least in the ELCA, are taught to try and exegete a text objectively. It has a meaning "out there" that we can try and discover. Most lay people don't have such training. A text's meaning is what happens to them "in here". A text always has a "for-me-ness" about it.

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This is to treat the accounts as "dead letters" to be dissected.

Yup, that's what exegesis does. It has been compared to cutting up cadavers or dissecting a plant so that one can example in detail all the different components. Such "work" destroys the beauty of the whole -- and in some ways, once all a plant's parts are laid out on a table, they can't be put back together again. However, without such work on dead bodies, we would not be so nearly advanced in our medical science to diagnose and repair parts when the break or misfunction.

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Have you ever read Hans Frei's "The Eclipse of Biblical Narrative"?  It speaks to this point and gives a historical account of how biblical interpretation came from living within the biblical narrative to dissecting it based upon foreign presuppositions.  Some of these foreign presuppositions came about post-Descartes and were begininng to be codified with the publication of the "Port-Royal Logic" (which first introduced the principle of internal evidence).  It is to these presuppositions that you are appealing, and they are only a couple hundred years old in biblical interpretation and have done much to make the "scholarship" of the academy irrelevant to the life of the church.  Check out Jeffrey Stout's "The Flight from Authority" for an interesting analysis of how this shift in thinking (not necessarily Christian thinking) came about..
I haven't read the book. I have read, (some time ago,) The Oral and the Written Gospel: The Hermeneutics of Speaking and Writing in the Synoptic Tradition, Mark, Paul, and Q by Werner H. Kelber. (I think that's the title, it's at the office and I'm at home.) As I recall, he argues that the Living Word died when it was written down. It was no longer a living, dynamic conversation between people, such as a witness speaking the gospel story to a potential believer. It became a static text that was read and studied. (This is part of the reason for the other thread on autobiographical theology. How do we make the gospel a living, dynamic word again? One answer is through personal testimonies. We continue the gospel story. The gospel

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Noting the bolded, underlined and blued portion, I see that we agree on this.  I have never had a problem with saying that you need to ask what the stories mean, but that they refer to real events as well. This is the dichotomy that I saw you drawing and still see you drawing elsewhere.  It creates needless controversy.
I can agree that they refer to real events. At the same time, when we start comparing the details of the "real events" in the gospels and other biblical books, we sometimes creates inconsistencies that cannot be reconciled without doing a disservice to one or more of the stories, e.g., when did the ascension take place, on Easter evening as Luke reports in the gospel; or 40 days later as Luke reports in Acts?

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If the doctrines the Church teaches (say, in the Nicene Creed) are not taught by Scripture, then no one is bound to them.  In fact, those who have taken them to be scriptural and therefore divine are blaspheming God by erroneously attributing teachings to Him.  This would seem to be the consequences of what you're saying.
The two natures of Christ can be found in scriptures, but they certainly are not articulated as well as in the Nicene Creed. That was a doctrine that developed (or was clarified) over time. Similarly, we will not find anything in scriptures espousing the Trinity with the words or as clear as in the Athanasian Creed. These creeds are not contrary to scriptures, but they are not taught in such detail in scriptures. One can look to scriptures, especially the gospel of Mark, and conclude that adoptionism is taught there. The "developing tradition" opposed that interpretation while clarifying the relationship between the Son and the Father.

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It is also a strange assumption in other ways.  You seem to be saying that the community that was formed by the Scripture are precisely the ones incapable of interpreting it rightly.  Rather, according to this line of thinking, true interpretation occurs when precisely that community's interpretation is eschewed. 
Nope, just the opposite. It was communities of believers that formed Scriptures at the beginning. I would agree that such communities were formed by the gospel before there were written records of Jesus; but it was these communities who wrote down their remembrances of Jesus -- who believed that something more concrete than an oral tradition was needed, that something authoritative was necessary as eye-witnesses were dying off. It was the communities of believers who collected and maintained, first of all the oral traditions about Jesus, and then the written traditions, including the letters that were important to them. Because such writers were so important to communities of believers, they were compiled after about 350 years into the canon of scriptures.

Since that time, post 400 or so, I would agree that communities are formed by Scriptures.

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This would also seem to indicate that my contention is correct -- that what you are saying is a de facto assertion of a competing narrative that is specifically asserted over against the way Christians have read their own book. After all, the starting point is that Christians are reflecting things that are not in Scripture rather than what is taught by Scripture.  And as such, what you are advocating for is a different Gospel.[/b]
Huh, where did the "Christians are reflecting things that are not in Scriptures" come from? I do think that Christians at different times in history have interpreted scriptures in different ways. I do not believe in the days of Matthew and Luke would any have asked, "Is the story of Virgin Birth true?" That was not an issue with them. (There are commentaries I've read who agree with that assessment.)

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See above, but this would be equivalent to saying that everyone else who has gone before has gotten it wrong, and only if we can get rid of those pesky Christian interpretations, we'll get at the real meaning.
Nope, just that at different times people have approached scriptures with different biases. The doctrines of Pentecostals lead them to read and interpret scriptures differently than most Lutherans. I just read an article about African Christians, and they have different biases in their approach to scriptures than western Christians. "Doctrines" are prescribed biases. Some of those may not have been the baises of the earliest readers (prior to the development of some of those doctrines). For example, did the churches in Paul's letters have a doctrine of the Trinity? If they did, I don't believe it was as developed as we get in later Christian writings about that doctrine.

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They certainly do say different things to different communities, and there is a variety here.  The great part is that Christian proclamation can and has taken those differences seriously even as it maintains a consistent overarching narrative.
I don't believe that all Christians have taken those differences seriously. There are groups who seek to harmonize the gospels -- make everything fit into one narrative. That is not taking the differences seriously. There are groups whose "doctrine" of scriptures requires them to approach all four gospels as coming from one author, God, and thus downplay or even ignore differences by each writer. (By claiming that there are four different writers, I indicate a different "doctrine" of scriptures than the "It-was-written-by-God" doctrine.)


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So you see that doctrine does have a role in scriptural interpretation, even by your own admission (see bolded, underlined and blued portion).  Positing a false dichotomy between doctrine and scriptural interpretation simple leads to laying one set of doctrines by the side in order to adopt a different set.

Yes, but some of that setting aside of one set of doctrines is recognizing that they were developed later in church history. The fleshed-out doctrine of the two natures of Christ, I don't believe is present in the scriptures. So, in doing exegetical work, that is laid aside; and a bias of "the-early-believers-were-still-trying-to-figure-out-Christ" becomes a bias when looking at the scriptures.

Specifically, the doctrine/bias that Borg posits by the early believers in their remembrances of Jesus is that they knew of and had experienced the resurrected Jesus. They believed that Jesus is alive and that Jesus is Lord because of the resurrection. I'm not sure that the disciples at the time of Jesus had those beliefs about Jesus. They did not believe that he would be raised from the dead. (The women go to the tomb expecting to find a body.) If they had believed Jesus was the Messiah, that belief was temporarily shattered when he was arrested and executed. So, when we read christological statements about Jesus, we can wonder if that's what really happened or was said prior to the resurrection, or is that a bias (albeit a good bias) that was imposed onto the story by the post-Easter remembrances. For instance, a variant reading at the end of Matthew's Lord's Prayer is "For the kingdom and the power and the lgory are yours forever. Amen." A similar doxological statement is found as part of the Lord's Prayer in the Didache. That sounds like, and is probably a statement about Jesus that arose from the believers' post-Easter experiences and beliefs about Jesus rather than something Jesus said during his earthly life.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2007, 06:04:00 PM
Dr. Okamoto of CSL has three lines that from which he is relatively sure that he can derive all of Lutheran theology:

1. God is God
2. You are not
3. Don't seem right

Pretty similar, but I like the "Don't seem right" part better because our sinful nature simply does not like the situation at all.  We'd much rather be God.
However, there seems to be some people who enjoy pointing out to others, "You are not God," while they feel free to act a bit godlike in doing so.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 28, 2007, 06:05:38 PM
I freely confess: I'm not God, and God likes it much better that way, I'm quite sure.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2007, 06:23:31 PM
I freely confess: I'm not God, and God likes it much better that way, I'm quite sure.
And so does your wife, if she's like mine.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on July 28, 2007, 06:27:21 PM
I freely confess: I'm not God, and God likes it much better that way, I'm quite sure.
And so does your wife, if she's like mine.

Hah, true. She does like me to think that she worships the ground I walk on, but....it's actually the reverse.

Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: LutherMan on July 28, 2007, 08:00:21 PM
"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths."
2 Timothy 4:3-4  NASB


Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on July 28, 2007, 08:19:02 PM
Pertaining to such things as Christ's Resurrection, at the risk of sounding simplistic, it seems to me that either something is true or it is not.  If, in a courtroom, a witness was asked if something was true, if he answered something like, "that depends on what you mean by 'true," I would expect an objection from the other attorney, and the Judge to tell the witness to answer the question - - - or, perhaps the attorney asking the question would say, "I'll take that as a 'no.'"

I know, theology is not a judicial procedure.  But still, it seems to me that either something (the resurrection) is true or it is not - with no further parsing; and that is all there is to it.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 28, 2007, 09:34:36 PM
Pertaining to such things as Christ's Resurrection, at the risk of sounding simplistic, it seems to me that either something is true or it is not.  If, in a courtroom, a witness was asked if something was true, if he answered something like, "that depends on what you mean by 'true," I would expect an objection from the other attorney, and the Judge to tell the witness to answer the question - - - or, perhaps the attorney asking the question would say, "I'll take that as a 'no.'"
In one case, if the witness saw the crime, it is more likely that the attorney would ask, "Tell us what you saw." Then the witness would relate what was witnessed. In cross examination, the attorney might ask, "Is it true that you said...." Then might produce evidence that what the witness claimed to have seen would have been impossible at time or from the particular angle.

In another case, if the witness is offering "expert testimony," the question seems always to include, "In your opinion,...."

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But still, it seems to me that either something (the resurrection) is true or it is not - with no further parsing; and that is all there is to it.
The resurrection is true. I don't think anyone here is denying that. Even Borg maintains that it happened. That, to me (and to others I've read) is the most logical explanation for the drastic change in the disciples from being fearful cowards in a locked room to bold witnesses facing arrest and death. Or, in Paul's case, the drastic change from persecuting Christians to preaching the faith. Something transformed their lives. Seeing the resurrected Jesus transformed them. The question is about the NT stories of resurrection appearances. They are certainly told to tells us more than just that Jesus was raised, but in that "something more," have the authors adapted or revised the stories -- perhaps without even consciously knowing it, because of the message(s) they want to proclaim throughout their gospels?

Again, I look to the example of Mark 16:1-8, there is no denial of the resurrection. The angel declares it. The angels instructs them "Go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.'"

Did the angel historically and factually say, "and Peter," or in Mark's remembrance of the story, in conjunction with his remembrances of Peter's failures throughout the gospel, did he add it for emphasis? (We could also ask if there were only "one young man" {Mk} or one "angel of the Lord" {Matthew} or "two men" {Luke} of if no one was seen at the empty tomb {John}.) It is quite likely that the women trembled and were bewildered and were fearful, but other historical records suggest that Mark's statement of their silence is not historically accurate. He tells his story for reasons that are more than the historical facts.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 28, 2007, 11:45:58 PM
Jesus was really raised from the dead. Jesus really appeared to people after the resurrection. Whether the stories in the gospels and Acts are accurate, historical, and factual accounts of those appearances is the issue. Interpreting them parabolically, and saying that such an interpretation doesn't rely on the historicity of the story is not a denial of the resurrection or appearances by Jesus. It is saying that each gospel writer tells the appearance stories in ways that fit into their entire story of Jesus. (As Powell suggests, the normal way of reading a narrative is (a) all the way through, and (b) beginning to end.)

Let’s see if we can come to some type of conclusion, then.  Apparently, you are saying that Jesus really died and that he really was raised.  Good.

Can you also say that this matters and is central to Christian theology and proclamation?  That is, if Jesus were not raised, our faith would be in vain? 

If you can, then it would seem that you could not make the following claim when it comes to the reality of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus: "To suggest that these biblical passages are shallow and insignificant because they didn't really happen is to miss the power of story -- a power that is a good story whether or not it is really happened or is parable"

Yup, that's what exegesis does. It has been compared to cutting up cadavers or dissecting a plant so that one can example in detail all the different components. Such "work" destroys the beauty of the whole -- and in some ways, once all a plant's parts are laid out on a table, they can't be put back together again. However, without such work on dead bodies, we would not be so nearly advanced in our medical science to diagnose and repair parts when the break or misfunction.

Hmm.  Rather, I think I prefer the whole “living and active” Word myself.  You know – the one that is so alive that it doesn’t come back empty?

One way to look at this is to see how much such an approach has helped the church.  If you notice, the historical critical method is being abandoned as a primary method in many quarters and not just in places like the LCMS.  The Postliberal school (among others) is gaining power and credibility with the onset of post-modern, pragmatic thought, and even these guys see that while historical criticism can help with some things, it ultimately has little to say to the church.

A case in point is an interview I had with a prominent biblical scholar at Yale.  She was writing a new commentary on Mark in a very prestigious commentary series.  I asked her what she was currently studying and what questions she was bringing to her study.  She then discoursed for a while on the current question – did Jesus say a certain thing or did he not?  After about 10-15 minutes of conversation, I asked her what her conclusions were.  She said that it depends on what you thought before you approached the text.

I left wondering why I would want to spend my time on something like that.

Such an approach where the text is dead and primarily worthy of dissecting of has little interest outside of a small group of scholars in the academy (and maybe some few others); it has little to say that might be helpful to the church as she struggles in this world.

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If the doctrines the Church teaches (say, in the Nicene Creed) are not taught by Scripture, then no one is bound to them.  In fact, those who have taken them to be scriptural and therefore divine are blaspheming God by erroneously attributing teachings to Him.  This would seem to be the consequences of what you're saying.
The two natures of Christ can be found in scriptures, but they certainly are not articulated as well as in the Nicene Creed. That was a doctrine that developed (or was clarified) over time. Similarly, we will not find anything in scriptures espousing the Trinity with the words or as clear as in the Athanasian Creed. These creeds are not contrary to scriptures, but they are not taught in such detail in scriptures. One can look to scriptures, especially the gospel of Mark, and conclude that adoptionism is taught there. The "developing tradition" opposed that interpretation while clarifying the relationship between the Son and the Father.

So you are now saying that the creeds are scriptural, but we will not find them quoted in the Scriptures.  Glad that we have that clear.

 
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It is also a strange assumption in other ways.  You seem to be saying that the community that was formed by the Scripture are precisely the ones incapable of interpreting it rightly.  Rather, according to this line of thinking, true interpretation occurs when precisely that community's interpretation is eschewed. 
Nope, just the opposite. It was communities of believers that formed Scriptures at the beginning. I would agree that such communities were formed by the gospel before there were written records of Jesus; but it was these communities who wrote down their remembrances of Jesus -- who believed that something more concrete than an oral tradition was needed, that something authoritative was necessary as eye-witnesses were dying off. It was the communities of believers who collected and maintained, first of all the oral traditions about Jesus, and then the written traditions, including the letters that were important to them.

Good so far.

Because such writers were so important to communities of believers, they were compiled after about 350 years into the canon of scriptures.
Since that time, post 400 or so, I would agree that communities are formed by Scriptures.

Actually, the compilations were largely complete long before then.  Paul’s letters always circulated together.  Likewise, the Synoptics were always found together, and John was almost always included as well.

Go to iTunes U for Concordia Sem and listen to an excellent series of lectures on this by Prof. Jeffrey Kloha.


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This would also seem to indicate that my contention is correct -- that what you are saying is a de facto assertion of a competing narrative that is specifically asserted over against the way Christians have read their own book. After all, the starting point is that Christians are reflecting things that are not in Scripture rather than what is taught by Scripture.  And as such, what you are advocating for is a different Gospel.[/b]

Huh, where did the "Christians are reflecting things that are not in Scriptures" come from?

From your assumption where you said: “The other approach, is to assume that such well-defined doctrines that developed over the years, are not present in the scriptures, and we study each Gospel on its own merits. We take each gospel, I think, more seriously when we do not try to impose later doctrinal matters onto the writings. Matthew has a different theology than Mark, Luke, and John. The ascension is not part of his story. Resurrection appearances are not part of Mark's story. I believe that we need to take those differences seriously. God gave us four different gospels.”

Here you say that we should assume that Christian doctrines (which Christians believe are taught in the Scriptures) are not found in Scriptures.  That’s where it came from.

Yet if the Christian doctrines as they have developed are found in the Scriptures, then they are nothing but a help to understanding the Scriptures rather than a hindrance.

But you say that we should assume that they aren’t in Scripture because they hinder its reading, they don’t allow us to take “seriously” what Scripture teaches.

A strange situation.  If a teaching is scriptural, then it should aid the interpretation of Scripture, not hinder it.  If a teaching hinders the right reading of Scripture, then it is not scriptural.


I don't believe that all Christians have taken those differences seriously.

Of course.  All have not.  Neither was I claiming that every Christian everywhere was, just in case you were wondering.

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So you see that doctrine does have a role in scriptural interpretation, even by your own admission (see bolded, underlined and blued portion).  Positing a false dichotomy between doctrine and scriptural interpretation simple leads to laying one set of doctrines by the side in order to adopt a different set.


Yes, but some of that setting aside of one set of doctrines is recognizing that they were developed later in church history. The fleshed-out doctrine of the two natures of Christ, I don't believe is present in the scriptures. So, in doing exegetical work, that is laid aside; and a bias of "the-early-believers-were-still-trying-to-figure-out-Christ" becomes a bias when looking at the scriptures.

Well, either the doctrine of the two natures of Christ is a scriptural doctrine or it isn’t.  If it is, it should be asserted.  If not, chuck it.  If you mean that we don’t find Leo’s Tome reproduced verbatim in the Bible, again, we agree.

Specifically, the doctrine/bias that Borg posits by the early believers in their remembrances of Jesus is that they knew of and had experienced the resurrected Jesus.

Good.  This brings us to perhaps a way we can come to agreement.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, does it matter to your theology that Jesus actually and really died and was actually and really resurrected and actually and really ascended?  That is, do these real events play a central, structural role in your theology to the point that you can say with Paul that if Christ were not raised, our faith would be in vain?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: LutherMan on July 29, 2007, 12:07:41 AM
I like believing and having faith in Jesus' resurrection for my salvation.  But them I am a simple layman...
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 29, 2007, 02:22:10 AM
Can you also say that this matters and is central to Christian theology and proclamation?  That is, if Jesus were not raised, our faith would be in vain?
Yes

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If you can, then it would seem that you could not make the following claim when it comes to the reality of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus: "To suggest that these biblical passages are shallow and insignificant because they didn't really happen is to miss the power of story -- a power that is a good story whether or not it is really happened or is parable"
I can certainly make that claim. Deciding that the angel's words, "and Peter," were probably added by Mark and weren't really said, doesn't change one bit about the reality of the resurrection, but it does suggest that some things in the story didn't really happen. Were Matthew and Mark mistaken when they only have one man/angel at the tomb, or was Luke mistaken when he has two angels? One of those accounts says something that "didn't really happen," because they both couldn't have happened. Saying that indicates something about those stories of the empty tomb, but not a denial of the empty tomb. Did an earthquake really happen or was that a Matthean insertion? (It's not found in any other gospel.) I say that whether or not an earthquake happened historically and factually or whether there were one or two men/angels doesn't matter when concentrating on the message(s) that the author is giving in the text.

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Hmm.  Rather, I think I prefer the whole “living and active” Word myself.  You know – the one that is so alive that it doesn’t come back empty?
Ah, but the theme throughout the NT is that life comes through dying. Perhaps by slicing up the dead word, we find that it comes back to life even stronger and more powerfully than before -- something like a resurrection! :)

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One way to look at this is to see how much such an approach has helped the church.  If you notice, the historical critical method is being abandoned as a primary method in many quarters and not just in places like the LCMS.  The Postliberal school (among others) is gaining power and credibility with the onset of post-modern, pragmatic thought, and even these guys see that while historical criticism can help with some things, it ultimately has little to say to the church.
I argued at least 25 years ago that the historical-critical method is a tool that can be used helpfully or harmfully. It's like driving a car. It can be done in ways that kill people; or done in ways that make life easier for people. Just because hundreds of people are killed by cars each year, we don't ban the use of cars. We try to get people to use them rightly and in helpful ways.

Right now, according to Powell, there are two basic approaches to scriptures: author-oriented approaches that use historical criticism; and reader-oriented scholars who use literary criticism. He admits that the following is an extreme rending and a caricature, but he gives it anyway to indicate one of the differences in these approaches: "historical critics may be depicted as claiming that a text has only one correct intepretation: the meaning that was intended by the author" and "literary critics may be depicted as recognizing an infinite diversity of interpretations, none of which can be ruled out by any objective standards."

Then offers a less exaggerated explanation of the differences: "it is safe to say that scholars who favor authors maintain that some interpretations are right and others are clearly wrong, while scholars who favor readers think it is abusive to impose understandings that limig people's creativity of imagination." [quotes from Chasing the Eastern Star, p. 2]

There are some of us who use a little of both.

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Such an approach where the text is dead and primarily worthy of dissecting of has little interest outside of a small group of scholars in the academy (and maybe some few others); it has little to say that might be helpful to the church as she struggles in this world.
There is truth to what you say. I've been a member of the Society of Biblical Literature since 1976. I've received their quarterly journal since then. Many of the essays are dissection of texts, and they have little interest outside the small group of scholars. This was also true at the one annual meeting I attended. Hundreds if not thousands of papers are presented, by academicians for others of the same ilk. I seldom sat through all five 30 minute lectures at each session.

Perhaps the most exciting event at the meeting was a meeting to possible start a new group dealing with the Bible in congregational life. The presenters were Barbara Brown Taylor, Marcus Borg, and Ben Witherington.

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So you are now saying that the creeds are scriptural, but we will not find them quoted in the Scriptures.  Glad that we have that clear.
I think I would say that the creeds go beyond scriptures. What they say is included in scriptures, but they also go further than scriptures to limit ways scriptures may be properly interpreted. I used the example before that Mark can be interpreted as God adopting Jesus at his baptism and then abandoning him on the cross. The later creeds rule that interpretation unacceptable to proper Christian understanding. It doesn't mean that an exegete won't explore that possibility, and wonder if is what Mark meant or not -- recognize that some answers surfaced by good exegesis may not square with orthodoxy.

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Good so far.
Why do you call me good? There is only one who is good. :)

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Actually, the compilations were largely complete long before then.  Paul’s letters always circulated together.  Likewise, the Synoptics were always found together, and John was almost always included as well.
Yes compilations occured earlier, canonization occured at the end of the fourth century. I also note that some of the compilations, such as listed by Eusebius (early 300s) are a bit different than the canonical listing. He included 1 Clement as a recognized book, and the following were disputed books: Hebrews, James, 2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, Jude, and Revelation.


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Here you say that we should assume that Christian doctrines (which Christians believe are taught in the Scriptures) are not found in Scriptures.  That’s where it came from.
Ah, it's sort of true, and sort of not. The quick example I think of is the ascension. It is taught in scriptures (two places), but it is also ignored in Matthew, Mark, and John, and perhaps Paul, too. Trying to impose the ascension into those texts is doing a disservice, I believe to those texts. The virgin birth is taught in scriptures (two places), but trying to impose that in Mark or Paul is trying to make them say something they don't say.

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Yet if the Christian doctrines as they have developed are found in the Scriptures, then they are nothing but a help to understanding the Scriptures rather than a hindrance.
It depends. If we let Luke help us understand the virgin birth and the ascension, that's fine; but if we go looking for those events in Mark and try to make Mark say something about those two events, then I think the doctrine becomes a hindrance rather than a help. Conversely, as I noted before, if one concludes that Mark presents an adoptionist understanding of Jesus, it may be good exegesis, but it is contrary to our doctrine. Similarly, trying to make Mark say that there is no virgin birth and no ascension, is making Mark also say something that he doesn't say, and that is contrary to doctrine.

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But you say that we should assume that they aren’t in Scripture because they hinder its reading, they don’t allow us to take “seriously” what Scripture teaches.
We should find the doctrine in the scripture passages where they occur and are supported. "Salvation through faith alone" is a wonderful and a key doctrine of our Lutheran theology; however, we can't make James say that. He says just the opposite: "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (2:24). Attempts to make James fit a Lutheran "faith alone" doctrine is likely to do injustice to the book of James.

I think that the Christianity presented by Matthew's gospel is a bit less salvation by grace through faith than we might like. Jesus is presented as a teacher and his followers are to obey his teaching. In my notes, there are times I will state that what a text is saying is not very Lutheran. There certainly are many texts that affirm our Lutheran theology, but there are others that say something different.

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A strange situation.  If a teaching is scriptural, then it should aid the interpretation of Scripture, not hinder it.  If a teaching hinders the right reading of Scripture, then it is not scriptural.
Scriptures is not all uniform in what it teaches. I think I wrote elsewhere that doing biblical theology is a lot messier than systematic theology. We have to deal with Paul's faith centered theology without works in Galatians and James's necessity of works theology.

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Well, either the doctrine of the two natures of Christ is a scriptural doctrine or it isn’t.  If it is, it should be asserted.  If not, chuck it.  If you mean that we don’t find Leo’s Tome reproduced verbatim in the Bible, again, we agree.
It developed out of scriptures. In Mark, the earliest gospel, I think, has little about two natures. Jesus' human nature is emphasized. (Only demons, the "bad guys," refer to Jesus as Son of the Most High, etc.) Jesus' miracles are hindrances to properly believing that Jesus is not a mythical divine man, but a son of man (a human being?) who dies. The only person who "gets it" in Mark is the centurion, who at Jesus' death confesses that he is the Son of God, but that title has to be understood as coming from his death, not his miracles.

In contrast, in the latest gospel, John, miracles are presented as "signs" that point to properly understanding Jesus. The connection between Jesus and the Father is much stronger in John than in earlier gospels.

One interpretation of this is that in the years between Mark and John, there was a growing understanding of Jesus' divinity and how that related to the Father.

Another way this is indicated: In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism. Matthew traces back a type of natural pre-existence of Jesus to Abraham and a supernatural connection to the divine at conception. Jesus was divine at the moment of conception. Luke also has the supernatural conception and traces back a type of natural pre-existance to Adam, "son of God." John traces back a supernaturel pre-existance before creation. Jesus was divine before the beginning of creation. One way of looking at such patterns is as a "developing tradition" -- a traditional that continued to develop into the creeds. The two natures are biblical, but not in all biblical books.

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Good.  This brings us to perhaps a way we can come to agreement.  Like I said at the beginning of this post, does it matter to your theology that Jesus actually and really died and was actually and really resurrected and actually and really ascended?  That is, do these real events play a central, structural role in your theology to the point that you can say with Paul that if Christ were not raised, our faith would be in vain?
Yes, I can and do say that. To repeat, the issue is not whether or not Christ was raised from the dead. He was. The question center around whether or not the stories related to the resurrection (the empty tomb and appearances) are like video-tape accounts or more-than-historical-and-factual accounts.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on July 29, 2007, 09:46:24 AM
If you can, then it would seem that you could not make the following claim when it comes to the reality of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus: "To suggest that these biblical passages are shallow and insignificant because they didn't really happen is to miss the power of story -- a power that is a good story whether or not it is really happened or is parable"
I can certainly make that claim. Deciding that the angel's words, "and Peter," were probably added by Mark and weren't really said, doesn't change one bit about the reality of the resurrection, but it does suggest that some things in the story didn't really happen.

My question actually had to do with the "reality of the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension".

Here, if Jesus were not crucified and resurrected, our faith would be in vain.  And the way you speak has to reflect this reality.

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Hmm.  Rather, I think I prefer the whole “living and active” Word myself.  You know – the one that is so alive that it doesn’t come back empty?
Ah, but the theme throughout the NT is that life comes through dying. Perhaps by slicing up the dead word, we find that it comes back to life even stronger and more powerfully than before -- something like a resurrection! :)

This sort of reminds me of the neighbor kid when I was growing up: "Hey, let's kill it and see what happens!"

But anyway, the theme throughout the NT is that God kills and makes alive through the crucifixion and resurrection of His Son and brings this salvation through the working of His Word in the power of the Spirit.  One is an existential assertion ("the theme throughout the NT is that life comes through dying") that could apply equally well to a teaching of the Mahatma, the other is a specifically Christian assertion.  I know that you were being light-hearted, but the existentialist approach does seem to be part of what is at issue here.

Right now, according to Powell, there are two basic approaches to scriptures: author-oriented approaches that use historical criticism; and reader-oriented scholars who use literary criticism. He admits that the following is an extreme rending and a caricature, but he gives it anyway to indicate one of the differences in these approaches: "historical critics may be depicted as claiming that a text has only one correct intepretation: the meaning that was intended by the author" and "literary critics may be depicted as recognizing an infinite diversity of interpretations, none of which can be ruled out by any objective standards."

Yeah, that's an over-simplification reflecting the disciplinization of theology.

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So you are now saying that the creeds are scriptural, but we will not find them quoted in the Scriptures.  Glad that we have that clear.
I think I would say that the creeds go beyond scriptures. What they say is included in scriptures, but they also go further than scriptures to limit ways scriptures may be properly interpreted. I used the example before that Mark can be interpreted as God adopting Jesus at his baptism and then abandoning him on the cross. The later creeds rule that interpretation unacceptable to proper Christian understanding. It doesn't mean that an exegete won't explore that possibility, and wonder if is what Mark meant or not -- recognize that some answers surfaced by good exegesis may not square with orthodoxy.

Yes, the creeds do limit the ways that the Scriptures may be properly interpreted.  It's one of their primary functions.  A lot of effort, courage and concern for the flock went into their formulation, and God has used them for thousands of years to properly form the members of His Church.  I think here is where there may be a large divide between us -- I think that the formative function of the creeds is a good thing, and you do not seem to be so sure. 

If the creeds are a form of protection, helping us to read the Scriptures rightly (essentially pointing out the bounds beyond which "There Be Dragons"), why would we want to read as if we did not have the benefit of using them?  Why eschew what Christians have held to be true for millenia?

Now, if your point is simply that it's silly to read a birth narrative into the Gospel of Mark, fine.  That would be silly.  But neither is it the point of the creeds.  They can be used while at the same time maintaining the variety of witnesses gospel witnesses that we have.

If it is to adopt an Adoptionist position, why would you want to do that?  Is it that important to want to start a new slug-fest all over again, one that split and divided the church millenia ago?  This seems to be a strange desire that a Christian would have -- to love controversies and be eager to start new ones rather than enjoying the bonds of peace that we have been given while knowing that we don't have to revisit at least some controversies.  Our trouble is enough for today.

I think that the creeds give us a great binding summary of the rule of faith, a rule that is crucial if one wants to really understand what the Scriptures are saying.  Theology and exegesis always go together, despite their arbitrary, post-Schleiermachian (sp?) division into distinct disciplines in today's academy.  Many departments are recognizing that this is silly and attempting to try to create "inter-disciplinary" tracks where theology and biblical interpretation go together.  But the truth is, the problem is only in how the academy has organized itself; theology and biblical interpretation always go together whenever one actually reads the Scriptures.  It may not be good theology, it may be a different gospel, but it is still theology.

My point is that since theology will be involved anyway (not being omnipotent, we can't help but bring our prejudices into how we read -- it's just a matter of which ones), let's use the right theology.  The creeds and ecumenical councils are at least a good place to start, though I also think that the BoC should be included here, too (but that may start another controversy).


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Good so far.
Why do you call me good? There is only one who is good. :)

Ahhh, yes.  This nicely plays into what I said above.  Someone who would mistake the referent of my adjective for himself does seem to have a desire for the omnipotence, the "objective" intepretation that only God has.  Our interpretations come from within our situations, and the Christian situation is bounded by the creeds.  One can certainly desire to have other interpretations, but these aren't, then, Christian interpretations.

Ah, it's sort of true, and sort of not. The quick example I think of is the ascension. It is taught in scriptures (two places), but it is also ignored in Matthew, Mark, and John, and perhaps Paul, too. Trying to impose the ascension into those texts is doing a disservice, I believe to those texts. The virgin birth is taught in scriptures (two places), but trying to impose that in Mark or Paul is trying to make them say something they don't say.

Yeah, I never said we should do something silly like that.

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Yet if the Christian doctrines as they have developed are found in the Scriptures, then they are nothing but a help to understanding the Scriptures rather than a hindrance.
It depends. If we let Luke help us understand the virgin birth and the ascension, that's fine; but if we go looking for those events in Mark and try to make Mark say something about those two events, then I think the doctrine becomes a hindrance rather than a help. Conversely, as I noted before, if one concludes that Mark presents an adoptionist understanding of Jesus, it may be good exegesis, but it is contrary to our doctrine. Similarly, trying to make Mark say that there is no virgin birth and no ascension, is making Mark also say something that he doesn't say, and that is contrary to doctrine.

Again, why would I speak of the ascension in a setting where it's not mentioned?  That would be like reading, say, the healing of the Gerasene demoniac and then importing speaking of the virgin birth in that connection.  This seems just a silly thing to suggest.

We should find the doctrine in the scripture passages where they occur and are supported.

Of course.  And then we use what is central to interpret what is less central; we let Scripture interpret Scripture via the rule of faith.

"Salvation through faith alone" is a wonderful and a key doctrine of our Lutheran theology; however, we can't make James say that. He says just the opposite: "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" (2:24). Attempts to make James fit a Lutheran "faith alone" doctrine is likely to do injustice to the book of James.

Then justification is not by grace through faith alone and is by works so that, I guess, we can boast.  If this is true, then the entire doctrine of justification by grace through faith is wrong, and we have a denial of the Gospel.

Here, James does need to be understood in his relation to Paul (and the rest of Scripture, too) in order to be understood rightly.  If you would rather claim that James teaches the divine doctrine that salvation is not by grace through faith alone but by works, you are denying the heart of the Gospel.

I think that the Christianity presented by Matthew's gospel is a bit less salvation by grace through faith than we might like. Jesus is presented as a teacher and his followers are to obey his teaching.

Again, we can see where such an approach leads.  That is, to a denial of the Gospel message the we are justified by grace through faith.  Do you really want to say that this is Jesus' teaching?

The way that Lutherans have understood this doctrine has never been in an antinomian fashion as if we do not follow Jesus' teachings.  This is fully compatible with the doctrine of justification as is James, rightly understood.

Your desire to eschew Christian doctrines as prior assumptions in your exegesis is leading to precisely what I said it would lead to -- another Gospel.

Elsewhere, you mentioned that you do not, in your exegesis, assume that God is the author of all of Scripture.  This would be consistent because it means that you no longer have to let Scripture interpret Scripture via the rule of faith.  But it also now shows the importance of this claim for biblical interpretation -- that if you ignore the fact that God took thousands of years to develop the canon of Scripture so that His action in Jesus would have the necessary context to be properly understood, you will, in fact, not understand what He's saying.

And this is where your approach appears to be leading; that is, if you think that Jesus is teaching that salvation is not by what he has done for us but by what we need to do for him.

Another Gospel.

[Leo's Tome] developed out of scriptures.

<snip>

One way of looking at such patterns is as a "developing tradition" -- a traditional that continued to develop into the creeds. The two natures are biblical, but not in all biblical books.

Yes.  So why would you want to develop a different trajectory than the Christian one, the one that developed out of the Scriptures and the early church?  The one that God kicked off long ago through His people Israel so that through them all the nations of the earth might be blessed?  All this tradition, all this trajectory of the people of God is not dispensable because God did not, apparently, consider it dispensable.  Christ came in the fullness of time when all was ready so that his mission could be understood.  This took a while -- thousands of years -- why would anyone think that all this is unnecessary for right understanding?  Or even more strangely, why this could actually hinder biblical interpretation rather than help it?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on July 30, 2007, 01:51:01 AM
In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism.

St. Mark 1:1. 

I know, pick your ancient manuscripts; some do not include "the Son of God."  Yet even most modern scholars do, contrary to your bald assertion.

spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: bmj on July 30, 2007, 03:06:35 AM
This is to treat the accounts as "dead letters" to be dissected.

Yup, that's what exegesis does. It has been compared to cutting up cadavers or dissecting a plant so that one can example in detail all the different components. Such "work" destroys the beauty of the whole -- and in some ways, once all a plant's parts are laid out on a table, they can't be put back together again. However, without such work on dead bodies, we would not be so nearly advanced in our medical science to diagnose and repair parts when the break or misfunction.

It is interesting read the words of Archbishop Henry Luke Orombi of Uganda, who oversees 9 million Anglicans.

http://www.firstthings.com/article.php3?id_article=6002

"The Bible cannot appear to us a cadaver, merely to be dissected, analyzed, and critiqued, as has been the practice of much modern higher biblical criticism. Certainly we engage in biblical scholarship and criticism, but what is important to us is the power of the Word of God precisely as the Word of God—written to bring transformation in our lives, our families, our communities, and our culture."

(Of course he says many other interesting things in the link.  I just found the contrast in language and differing views of scripture to be fascinating.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 31, 2007, 10:11:44 PM
Yes, the creeds do limit the ways that the Scriptures may be properly interpreted.  It's one of their primary functions.  A lot of effort, courage and concern for the flock went into their formulation, and God has used them for thousands of years to properly form the members of His Church.  I think here is where there may be a large divide between us -- I think that the formative function of the creeds is a good thing, and you do not seem to be so sure.
I haven't said whether the formative function was good or bad. I'm stating that some of those later formulations are not included in scriptures as clearly as when formed later.

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Now, if your point is simply that it's silly to read a birth narrative into the Gospel of Mark, fine.  That would be silly.  But neither is it the point of the creeds.  They can be used while at the same time maintaining the variety of witnesses gospel witnesses that we have.
Yes, the creeds need to be used.

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If it is to adopt an Adoptionist position, why would you want to do that?  Is it that important to want to start a new slug-fest all over again, one that split and divided the church millenia ago?  This seems to be a strange desire that a Christian would have -- to love controversies and be eager to start new ones rather than enjoying the bonds of peace that we have been given while knowing that we don't have to revisit at least some controversies.  Our trouble is enough for today.
When Mark is read without the corrective of the creeds, it can be interpreted as promoting adoptionism. Whether or not Mark intended an adoptionist understanding of Jesus, we don't know.

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Here, James does need to be understood in his relation to Paul (and the rest of Scripture, too) in order to be understood rightly.  If you would rather claim that James teaches the divine doctrine that salvation is not by grace through faith alone but by works, you are denying the heart of the Gospel.
Why does James need to be understood in his relation to Paul? Why shouldn't James be understood as James -- probably in opposition to Paul. (Paul and Peter had their disagreements.)

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Again, we can see where such an approach leads.  That is, to a denial of the Gospel message the we are justified by grace through faith.  Do you really want to say that this is Jesus' teaching?

Now you are proving my point by imposing a doctrine: "justification by grace through faith" into biblical writings where they may not fit. This is not a denial of justification by grace through faith, but recognizing that, for instance, "Matthew," may not be as Lutheran we'd like him to be. (Roman Catholics tend to like Matthew.)

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Elsewhere, you mentioned that you do not, in your exegesis, assume that God is the author of all of Scripture. 

Our confession of faith states that God inspired scriptures, not that God wrote them.

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This would be consistent because it means that you no longer have to let Scripture interpret Scripture via the rule of faith.

I let scriptures interpret scriptures primarily through word studies. My Greek concordances is one of the most used resources I have. However, sometimes those word studies lead be to conclude that different authors use words in different ways.

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And this is where your approach appears to be leading; that is, if you think that Jesus is teaching that salvation is not by what he has done for us but by what we need to do for him.
Jesus' teaching is not necessarily exactly the same as Matthew's story of Jesus or Mark's story of Jesus, etc. Each gospel presents Jesus in slightly different ways.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on July 31, 2007, 10:14:43 PM
In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism.

St. Mark 1:1. 

I know, pick your ancient manuscripts; some do not include "the Son of God."  Yet even most modern scholars do, contrary to your bald assertion.

Hercules was a "son of God". After Julius Caesar was deified, his adopted son, Augustus, was called "son of God". Thus, the title "son of God" at the time of Mark did not indicate two natures.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on August 01, 2007, 02:17:57 AM
Hercules was a "son of God". After Julius Caesar was deified, his adopted son, Augustus, was called "son of God". Thus, the title "son of God" at the time of Mark did not indicate two natures.

Hercules was son of a god.  I suppose Octavian would have been, too.

Your original statement was, "In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism."  Calling him "Son of God" is a statement about his divinity.  By itself, it does not necessitate the doctrine of Christ's two natures.

pax, spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on August 01, 2007, 07:29:37 AM
How is it possible for a person to say, honestly, that they subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions and then run off and indulge in anti-Biblical speculations of all sorts, such as we've seen here?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 01, 2007, 07:34:48 AM
Pastor McCain asks:
How is it possible for a person to say, honestly, that they subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions and then run off and indulge in anti-Biblical speculations of all sorts, such as we've seen here?

I suggest:
Because for some of us, inquiry is not "anti-biblical," but "pro-Biblical," helping us to better understand the scriptures. It is your assessment that they are anti-Biblical, not mine.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on August 01, 2007, 07:42:22 AM
Denying the teaching of Scripture is an odd way of being pro-Biblical.

Are you being "pro-Biblical" when you deny what Christ our Lord and His Apostles taught and believed?

Once more we notice an approach to the Scriptures that regards it being more akin to Aesop's Fables than the God-breathed Word of the Living God.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ROB_MOSKOWITZ on August 01, 2007, 10:39:51 AM
Denying the teaching of Scripture is an odd way of being pro-Biblical.

Are you being "pro-Biblical" when you deny what Christ our Lord and His Apostles taught and believed?

Once more we notice an approach to the Scriptures that regards it being more akin to Aesop's Fables than the God-breathed Word of the Living God.

Its the post modern interpretation shell game, hermeneutic of smoke and mirrors that allows church officials to make statements such as "I don't believe in the Bible, I believe in God" and still consider themselves fellow lutherans and members of the body of Christ. 

But yes you are correct it is unconfessional.   

Next of course is the accusation that anyone who disagrees is committing "Biblio idolatry".   

Big tent vs church essentially.

Rob Moskowitz
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 01, 2007, 11:10:48 AM
I think here is where there may be a large divide between us -- I think that the formative function of the creeds is a good thing, and you do not seem to be so sure.
I haven't said whether the formative function was good or bad. I'm stating that some of those later formulations are not included in scriptures as clearly as when formed later.

That's my point.  I said, "you do not seem to be so sure."  When it comes to the central importance of teachings such as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, you do need to be sure and also be sure that the theology you teach gives them the central place of importance.  Without the resurrection (and so the crucifixion), our faith would be in vain -- and the very structure of the theology you teach needs to reflect this if you are going to be able to agree with Paul.

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Now, if your point is simply that it's silly to read a birth narrative into the Gospel of Mark, fine.  That would be silly.  But neither is it the point of the creeds.  They can be used while at the same time maintaining the variety of witnesses gospel witnesses that we have.

Yes, the creeds need to be used.

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If it is to adopt an Adoptionist position, why would you want to do that?  Is it that important to want to start a new slug-fest all over again, one that split and divided the church millenia ago?  This seems to be a strange desire that a Christian would have -- to love controversies and be eager to start new ones rather than enjoying the bonds of peace that we have been given while knowing that we don't have to revisit at least some controversies.  Our trouble is enough for today.

When Mark is read without the corrective of the creeds, it can be interpreted as promoting adoptionism. Whether or not Mark intended an adoptionist understanding of Jesus, we don't know.

So the creeds need to be used, and if we don't use them, we come up with another teaching on who Jesus is.  That's true.

Note that even here where you are speaking of "Adoptionism", you are importing a doctrinal outlook into the text.  This is one trajectory (one that the Christian church has determined to be wrong) that developed out of the early church and the way she read her texts.  An other trajectory is the one that reflex creedal orthodoxy.  But both are trajectories that developed into additional doctrinal statements.  

So to say that Mark "can be interpreted" (of course, anything "can be interpreteted" one way or another, that's not the question) to support an Adoptionist position is simply to prefer one set of doctrines over another.  

Like I've been pointing out, the question is not whether you will read using a doctrine or set of doctrines; rather, the question is simply which doctrine or set of doctrines you will use.

And if you are a Christian who believes as the ecumenical creeds believe, then you use that doctrine.

Otherwise, rather than being any type of an "ecumenical" Christian, you become a schismatic and encourage strife and dissension as you re-fight battles that were decided long ago (look at the controversy this spurs on this board if nowhere else).  This is not something that Christians should do -- start conflicts with each other based upon idle speculation or a desire to re-fight battles already decided.  Paul has something to say about such in Rom 16:17.

Why does James need to be understood in his relation to Paul? Why shouldn't James be understood as James -- probably in opposition to Paul. (Paul and Peter had their disagreements.)

Are you saying that we should accept as God-breathed teaching a reading of James that says that we are not justified by grace through faith but also by works?


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Again, we can see where such an approach leads.  That is, to a denial of the Gospel message the we are justified by grace through faith.  Do you really want to say that this is Jesus' teaching?


Now you are proving my point by imposing a doctrine: "justification by grace through faith" into biblical writings where they may not fit. This is not a denial of justification by grace through faith, but recognizing that, for instance, "Matthew," may not be as Lutheran we'd like him to be. (Roman Catholics tend to like Matthew.)

Like I've repeatedly said, it's not whether you read using doctrine, but which doctrine you use. 

You read this way, too.  Your doctrine that the Scriptures which are breathed by the same God could teach contradictory things is a doctrine.

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Elsewhere, you mentioned that you do not, in your exegesis, assume that God is the author of all of Scripture. 

Our confession of faith states that God inspired scriptures, not that God wrote them.

What distinction are you making?  That the God who inspired (breathed) Scriptures is not considered their author?  My position is simply that God is 100% the author of Scripture and the human authors are 100% the authors of Scripture.  Here the analogy of the divine and human nature of Christ is appropos.  Christ is both fully God and fully human; the Scriptures are fully breathed / authored by God and fully human writings. 

Do note that I do not include "error" or "sin" as essentially part of what it means to be human; that's a later consequence of the Fall that has already been remedied and will finally be put to rest on the Last Day.

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This would be consistent because it means that you no longer have to let Scripture interpret Scripture via the rule of faith.


I let scriptures interpret scriptures primarily through word studies. My Greek concordances is one of the most used resources I have. However, sometimes those word studies lead be to conclude that different authors use words in different ways.

Leaving aside the fallacies associated with only or principally using word studies, this brings up an important question -- that of the canon.  Christians have agreed that these particular writings definitively and sufficiently embody what it takes to properly understand what Jesus did and so what it means to be a Christian.  If you did not have the OT, Matthew and the entire NT would be, quite literally, incomprehensible.  That's why context is of such importance.  God gave us a lot of context to understand who Jesus is -- the entire history of Israel, in fact.  If He thought that this was necessary to be able to grasp what He was going to do to save the world through His Son, why should we think any differently?

Likewise, with the NT, we have a full picture of who Jesus was, what he did on our behalf, and how God now relates to us.  One gospel writing would not be enough to get this full picture.  That's why we have four.  Likewise, a single letter from Paul or James cannot properly give us this picture; that's why we have many.  It is in their interrelation and only in their interrelation that a full and not a partial or incomplete picture emerges.

This leaves us in a hermeneutical circle where the whole is always helping to understand the part even as the part is helping to understand the whole.  This is just a statement of how life works.

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And this is where your approach appears to be leading; that is, if you think that Jesus is teaching that salvation is not by what he has done for us but by what we need to do for him.
Jesus' teaching is not necessarily exactly the same as Matthew's story of Jesus or Mark's story of Jesus, etc. Each gospel presents Jesus in slightly different ways.

Yes, each gospel does present Jesus is different ways.  That's why we do get neither a complete nor a sufficient picture of Jesus from any one gospel.  Rather, we do understand Jesus properly by inter-relating the four gospels along with the other Christian writings in the NT as well as through a proper understanding of the OT.


To return again to the main point, it is not if you will read with a doctrine but rather with which doctrine you will read.  Why you would want to eschew Christian assumptions (as found in the creeds, for example) and start from non-Christian assumptions is beyond me.  It is even stranger to think that doing so will help interpret the Christian scriptures.  However, doing so leads to dissension and strife because this leads to the proclamation and teaching of another Gospel.  The entire narrative changes; the entire set of doctrine changes.  And so the message that is to be proclaimed, the message by which we are saved changes.

Another Gospel.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 03:28:25 AM
Your original statement was, "In Mark there is no statement about Jesus' divinity before his baptism."  Calling him "Son of God" is a statement about his divinity.  By itself, it does not necessitate the doctrine of Christ's two natures.
You are right about my statement. What I was thinking was Mark's narrative of Jesus' life, suffering, death, empty tomb. Mark 1:1 is the narrator's preface to the story, but not the narrative of Jesus' ministry.

I also note that in the Greek, there is no definite article. It could just as correctly be translated "a son of God". The same is true in 15:39 with the centurion's confession -- no article. As such, it could be interpreted as putting Jesus in the same category as Hercules or Augustus or other "sons of God(s)" in Greek and Roman mythology. The way the traditional developed into the creeds and the doctrine of the two natures, however, speaks against that interpretation, (even if it may have been what Mark intended).
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 03:40:39 AM
How is it possible for a person to say, honestly, that they subscribe to the Lutheran Confessions and then run off and indulge in anti-Biblical speculations of all sorts, such as we've seen here?
Nothing is anti-biblical. It may be anti-doctrinal. The two are not the same. One can certainly read and interpret Matthew and James as promoting the necessity of works for salvation. Contrary to Lutheran doctrine, James says "You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone" in 2:24 (ESV!).

"Justification through faith alone" is a doctrinal statement. It is not found in scriptures.
"Justification by works and not by faith alone" is a biblical statement.

Which one should have precedence?

Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 03:42:55 AM
Its the post modern interpretation shell game, hermeneutic of smoke and mirrors that allows church officials to make statements such as "I don't believe in the Bible, I believe in God" and still consider themselves fellow lutherans and members of the body of Christ.
Can you give a reference of a church official actually making that statement. If not, you are bearing false witness.

I have and will say that we are not saved by the Bible, but we are saved by God or God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 04:36:20 AM
That's my point.  I said, "you do not seem to be so sure."  When it comes to the central importance of teachings such as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, you do need to be sure and also be sure that the theology you teach gives them the central place of importance.  Without the resurrection (and so the crucifixion), our faith would be in vain -- and the very structure of the theology you teach needs to reflect this if you are going to be able to agree with Paul.
I have said that I am sure that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. I am not so sure how accurate the stories about the resurrection appearances are.

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Note that even here where you are speaking of "Adoptionism", you are importing a doctrinal outlook into the text.  This is one trajectory (one that the Christian church has determined to be wrong) that developed out of the early church and the way she read her texts.  An other trajectory is the one that reflex creedal orthodoxy.  But both are trajectories that developed into additional doctrinal statements. 

Not quite. I think that adoptionism was a trajectory that came out of studying the text -- primarily Mark. Someone didn't suddenly decide that Jesus was adopted by the Father, and then went to find texts to support that view. The trajectory that developed into the creeds considered what was in all of the gospels.

Let's take another issue that is not yet creedal among all Christians: theology of glory vs. theology of the cross. Those who maintain a theology of glory find that coming out of their study of particular scripture verses. A lead article in the July 20, 2007 issue of The Christian Century is called: "The Prosperity Gospel in Africa: Expecting Miracles," by Paul Gifford. His opening paragraph:

Though virtually all forms of Christianity in Africa are experiencing explosive growth, the churches growing most spectacularly are the ones that are Pentecostal or neo-Pentecostal or "Pentecostal-like." After 23 years of visiting African churches, I would venture another generalization: the growing Pentecostal churches have one thing in common -- a focus on achieving success. Discussing african Pentecostalism without discussing its emphasis on success is like discussing computers without mentioning software. (p. 20)

I am certain that this "success" gospel comes from reading particular texts -- and it sells well. I remember reading about Reverend Ike in the U.S. who promote a gospel of success as he rode around in his Rolls Royce. "If you truly believe, God will give you success." How many churches preach a less flamboyant version of that gospel -- which is backed up by scripture verse after scripture verse?

That is a biblical trajectory. It is one that Lutherans have denied as authentic to the gospel -- the way of Jesus is where the divine his hidden in its opposite, in suffering and death. That is another trajectory for which biblical verses can be found to support it.

Doctrines flow out of scriptures, and they then become a filter for scripture interpretation (at least for those who believe the doctrine).

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So to say that Mark "can be interpreted" (of course, anything "can be interpreteted" one way or another, that's not the question) to support an Adoptionist position is simply to prefer one set of doctrines over another. 

True, and some biblical trajectories held by believers in Christ, lost the theological battles, e.g., gnosticism, Judaizers.

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And if you are a Christian who believes as the ecumenical creeds believe, then you use that doctrine.
Yes, I use that doctrine; however, when exegeting a passage, there is an attempt to place all biases aside -- including those created by doctrines and creeds. I have said at times in my "gospel notes," this passage is not very Lutheran, because its meaning does not square with our Lutheran doctrines. This doesn't change my beliefs in our doctrines or our creeds; but I recognize that scriptures do not have a nice, neat systematic theology that developed later in the life of the believers.


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Are you saying that we should accept as God-breathed teaching a reading of James that says that we are not justified by grace through faith but also by works?
I'm saying that we have to honestly read what James is saying. He says very clearly that we are justified by works and not by faith alone (2:24). I believe that we see tensions within scriptures between different schools of thought. Paul and James represent two different faith communities and theologies in the early church. We know that Paul and Peter disagreed (Galatians 2). We read about a strong disagreement between Paul and Barnabas (perhaps over John Mark) so that they part company. The Bible does not present one nice, coherent theology, but many theologies. Of those many that are found there, some have been deemed "orthodox"; some have been deemed "Lutheran". If one truly approaches scriptures with an unbiased attitude, one will find non-orthodox and unLutheran interpretations.


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Like I've repeatedly said, it's not whether you read using doctrine, but which doctrine you use. 

I'm saying that a particular doctrine may not fit a particular passage of scriptures.


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You read this way, too.  Your doctrine that the Scriptures which are breathed by the same God could teach contradictory things is a doctrine.
Yes it is. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 doesn't say that scriptures will not contradict itself, but that it is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." Those who over-emphasize God's actions in our salvation, so that we can just sit back and do nothing, probably need to be taught and corrected by James and Matthew, so that they are better equipped and motivated to do good works. Those who only define Christianity as living good, moral lives, need to be taught and corrected by Paul about the futility of good works and the necessity of grace.

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What distinction are you making?  That the God who inspired (breathed) Scriptures is not considered their author?  My position is simply that God is 100% the author of Scripture and the human authors are 100% the authors of Scripture.  Here the analogy of the divine and human nature of Christ is appropos.  Christ is both fully God and fully human; the Scriptures are fully breathed / authored by God and fully human writings.

And I frequently ask, who is the author of your sermons? Are they inspired writings/proclamations? If you do not believe that God breathes life into your sermons, why bother with them? They would be no different than a high school student reading a paper in class.


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Leaving aside the fallacies associated with only or principally using word studies, this brings up an important question -- that of the canon.  Christians have agreed that these particular writings definitively and sufficiently embody what it takes to properly understand what Jesus did and so what it means to be a Christian.  If you did not have the OT, Matthew and the entire NT would be, quite literally, incomprehensible.  That's why context is of such importance.  God gave us a lot of context to understand who Jesus is -- the entire history of Israel, in fact.  If He thought that this was necessary to be able to grasp what He was going to do to save the world through His Son, why should we think any differently?
We have the OT as a gift. However, when Paul preached to the Greeks, he didn't quote the OT at all. Rather he quoted writings familiar to the Greeks. Luke makes very little use of the OT in his story of Jesus. One can read it, understand much about Jesus without knowing the OT. Similarly with John. Most people probably don't recognize the parallels in John 1 with wisdom literature. (There we have a problem about which canon should we use. There are writings that are considered (deutero-)canonical by some Christians and not by others.)


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Likewise, with the NT, we have a full picture of who Jesus was, what he did on our behalf, and how God now relates to us.  One gospel writing would not be enough to get this full picture.  That's why we have four.  Likewise, a single letter from Paul or James cannot properly give us this picture; that's why we have many.  It is in their interrelation and only in their interrelation that a full and not a partial or incomplete picture emerges.
But if one tries to make them all say exactly the same thing, the interrelationship is lost. If the whole body were a foot, where would the body be? It's their differences, I find, that make synoptic studies so interesting. It is the tension between Paul and James that make them both come alive. It is seeing how Revelation adapts literally hundreds of OT images that help us make sense of that book of symbolism.

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To return again to the main point, it is not if you will read with a doctrine but rather with which doctrine you will read.  Why you would want to eschew Christian assumptions (as found in the creeds, for example) and start from non-Christian assumptions is beyond me.  It is even stranger to think that doing so will help interpret the Christian scriptures.  However, doing so leads to dissension and strife because this leads to the proclamation and teaching of another Gospel.  The entire narrative changes; the entire set of doctrine changes.  And so the message that is to be proclaimed, the message by which we are saved changes.
To repeat, the aim of the biblical critic is to approach scriptures as unbiasly as possible. It is precisely when I find a biblical text challenging me, that the bible really fulfills its God-breathed functions. If all I find are truths that I already know, the Bible hasn't taught me anything. It hasn't rebuked or corrected anything. A statement in the introduction of The Five Gospels is: "Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you" (p. 5). Such a Jesus is likely to be your own projection of Jesus rather than the one actually found in scriptures.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 02, 2007, 10:40:16 AM
That's my point.  I said, "you do not seem to be so sure."  When it comes to the central importance of teachings such as the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, you do need to be sure and also be sure that the theology you teach gives them the central place of importance.  Without the resurrection (and so the crucifixion), our faith would be in vain -- and the very structure of the theology you teach needs to reflect this if you are going to be able to agree with Paul.
I have said that I am sure that Jesus was crucified and raised from the dead. I am not so sure how accurate the stories about the resurrection appearances are.

You still have not caught or responded to the force of my critique yet.  The force of my critique comes from quoting someone like Borg positively on the issue of the empty tomb.  According to your positive quotation of him, Borg says:

[Brian quoting Borg positively:]As I conclude this exposition of Easter, I return once more to the question of history or parable. As is apparent, I find these stories to be powerfully true as parables of the resurrection. it does not matter to me as a Christian whether any of them describe events that you or I could have witnessed. It does not matter to me whether the tomb was empty.

To Borg, and apparently to you as you seemed to be quoting him in order to support your point, the actual resurrection seems to be a "take-it-or-leave-it" occurrence.

Here comes the point that I started with in this thread and which I'm still not sure if you have caught because you have not yet reflected it: that is, the resurrection cannot be approached as a "take-it-or-leave-it-event" and have your theology still remain Christian.  Downgrading the central importance of this historical occurrence from something critical to Christian theology to a "take-it-or-leave-it" teaching betrays a doctrine whose very structure is no longer Christian.

Earlier, you said that you do agree with Paul that if Christ were not raised, our faith is in vain.  If this is true, do you agree that Borg is here both mistaken and misleading in that he does not appear to place any central importance upon the fact of the physical resurrection for the Christian faith (which is different from Paul, and as you said before, apparently yourself)?

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Note that even here where you are speaking of "Adoptionism", you are importing a doctrinal outlook into the text.  This is one trajectory (one that the Christian church has determined to be wrong) that developed out of the early church and the way she read her texts.  An other trajectory is the one that reflex creedal orthodoxy.  But both are trajectories that developed into additional doctrinal statements. 


Not quite. I think that adoptionism was a trajectory that came out of studying the text -- primarily Mark. Someone didn't suddenly decide that Jesus was adopted by the Father, and then went to find texts to support that view. The trajectory that developed into the creeds considered what was in all of the gospels.

Actually, your first and third full sentences are just repeating what I said.  I said that it was one doctrinal trajectory "that developed out of the early church and the way she read her texts."  The key point is that it's an errant trajectory because it cannot do justice to Mark's message.  That is, again, unless you are saying that Mark does teach Adoptionism and that such a teaching is God-breathed and so divine.  Are you saying that?

To go even further, Mark is also easily read in a non-Adoptionist manner which is one reason why orthodox, creedal Christianity never felt the need to jettison or "speak against" its canonicity, unlike books like James which are part of the "anti-legoumena" (those books spoken against yet ultimately accepted).  In fact, reading Mark properly (in a creedal, non-Adoptionist manner) results in increased meaning and profundity, not less.  The juxtaposition of the "Son of God" passages with the "Son of Man" passages becomes more powerful, as does Jesus' address to God as "Abba".

Now, I said that the first and third full sentences of yours were simply repeating what I said.  The second full sentence ("Someone didn't suddenly decide that Jesus was adopted by the Father, and then went to find texts to support that view") is not nuanced enough.  The notioin of a person being "adopted" as a "Son of God" was not foreign to the times.  This would actually have been a pre-existing category into which the story of Jesus could be shoehorned if someone wanted to; and obviously, such happened.

So your statement needs greater nuance to note the heremeneutical circle (or spiral) that is interpretation.  Adoptionist categories were present before Jesus, and the interplay between what Jesus did and these categories led to misinterpretations of who Jesus is.  That's one reason why it took so long and such careful study of the entire corpus of Christian Scripture to arrive at a right understanding of who Jesus was.  And I dare say that the categories they did finally arrive at were much less popular than those of Adoptionism and much more difficult to defend rationally -- after all, how can anybody be 100% God and 100% man united in a true personal union where he remains both God and man yet truly one person?  Chalcedonian Christology isn't exactly a stunning example of shoehorning biblical data into rationally defensible categories; rather its very structure reflects the existing biblical data as it is full of paradoxes.


Let's take another issue that is not yet creedal among all Christians: theology of glory vs. theology of the cross. Those who maintain a theology of glory find that coming out of their study of particular scripture verses.

<snip>

I am certain that this "success" gospel comes from reading particular texts -- and it sells well. I remember reading about Reverend Ike in the U.S. who promote a gospel of success as he rode around in his Rolls Royce. "If you truly believe, God will give you success." How many churches preach a less flamboyant version of that gospel -- which is backed up by scripture verse after scripture verse?

That is a biblical trajectory. It is one that Lutherans have denied as authentic to the gospel -- the way of Jesus is where the divine his hidden in its opposite, in suffering and death. That is another trajectory for which biblical verses can be found to support it.

Doctrines flow out of scriptures, and they then become a filter for scripture interpretation (at least for those who believe the doctrine).

Here, we are closer to agreement.  Add to your last statement the role of the proclamation of Christ and you have yourself a winner.

However, you do need to be stronger in pointing out how such "Gospels" (like the prosperity "Gospel" that is preached all over Africa [and here]) are really no Gospel at all.  I've seen people give all of their money to these "preachers" and descend even further into the depths of poverty than they ever were before, living in horrific slums like Kibera outside of Nairobi.  And when they come asking the preacher why God hasn't blessed the financial "seed" they sowed, the preacher invariable accuses them of lacking faith, even as he purchases a car for himself.  This needs to be identified for what it is -- another Gospel, one preached by a person who is only interested in their bellies and used to steal money from people.

So I'm glad that you agree with me that the point is not that you can back up your statements with particular Scripture passages but rather must have your message conform to what is truly the Christian message -- i.e., creedal Christianity (and I would add the Book of Concord, but that would complicate the discussion right now) -- or otherwise it is simply another Gospel, one which falls under Paul's condemnation in Galatians.


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So to say that Mark "can be interpreted" (of course, anything "can be interpreteted" one way or another, that's not the question) to support an Adoptionist position is simply to prefer one set of doctrines over another. 

True, and some biblical trajectories held by believers in Christ, lost the theological battles, e.g., gnosticism, Judaizers.

It's not just a matter of "winning" or "losing" a theological battle, unless you mean to say that the errant positions did not reflect the deep logic (or "depth grammar") of the Christian proclamation.  Creedal Christianity doesdo  justice to the Christian proclamation and the Scriptures; other doctrines do not.  That's why they "lost".


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Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 02, 2007, 10:40:28 AM
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And if you are a Christian who believes as the ecumenical creeds believe, then you use that doctrine.
Yes, I use that doctrine; however, when exegeting a passage, there is an attempt to place all biases aside -- including those created by doctrines and creeds.

Major fallacy here -- you cannot be unbiased, and if you actually attained your goal of being unbiased, you would have lost all your reason to read and interpret in the first place.  If you were truly unbiased, reading this particular set of writings (the Bible) would no longer have any interest to you because what they had to say would become unimportant.  You only read the Bible because you are biased to think that you might learn something from it and that God might be speaking to you through it.  These are already powerful biases, and if you jettison these OR EVEN WANT TO JETTISON THEM you are misunderstanding what it means to be a Christian interpreter of Scripture.

We read the Bible because we are Christian.  We are biased because our lives have been grasped and transformed by Christ, and we want to learn more about who it is that did that and grow in our love and trust of him.  We also read the Bible so that the joy which we found in the Christian proclamation can overflow to others in a message that properly reflects what Jesus did and is doing. These are biases that should be embraced and reveled in, not eschewed or downplayed.

But in no case can you ever actually be unbiased.  To be so would be to think that you can achieve an even more-or-less situated position in life.  You are situated where you are as a created, finite human being and cannot escape that situatedeness.  You are not God; you are God's creature.  God has placed you in a situation where you see and understand based upon the categories that you already have, and most of the time, you don't even recognize what you see as a particular category but simply "the way things are".  It's like being a deep-sea fish that never comes to the surface and doesn't even know that it's living in the ocean -- rather, the world is simply what it is, and to think that there might be a terrifying place where there is no water doesn't even occur to you.

The "unbiased" approach is simply a cover for the will-to-power.  Rather than being honest and forthright about biases, such an approach attempts to deceive the hearers that your particular set of biases have some privileged position to which they do not have access.  As such, it is a rhetorical power-play and nothing more.

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Are you saying that we should accept as God-breathed teaching a reading of James that says that we are not justified by grace through faith but also by works?
I'm saying that we have to honestly read what James is saying.

I see that you did not answer my question.  If you are contending that James is really teaching that salvation is not by faith alone but by works as well, please come right out and say it.  Assuming that you accept James as inspired by God, that would mean that you believe that this is divine, God-inspired teaching as well.  Do you or don't you?

He says very clearly that we are justified by works and not by faith alone (2:24).

If you're saying that James does teach that the central tenent of the Gospel is wrong -- that is, if you think that he is denying that we are justified by grace through faith -- you are misreading James.  Quite simply, James is speaking of something that Luther and Christians have always taught -- that faith is a living, active, powerful thing that issues forth in good works.  It is inconceivable that such a faith would not help the neighbor.  Of what benefit or advantage (ophelos) would that faith be?  Rather it would be dead.

I believe that we see tensions within scriptures between different schools of thought... The Bible does not present one nice, coherent theology, but many theologies. Of those many that are found there, some have been deemed "orthodox"; some have been deemed "Lutheran". If one truly approaches scriptures with an unbiased attitude, one will find non-orthodox and unLutheran interpretations.

<snip>


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You read this way, too.  Your doctrine that the Scriptures which are breathed by the same God could teach contradictory things is a doctrine.
Yes it is. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 doesn't say that scriptures will not contradict itself, but that it is "useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that all God's people may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."

If you are saying that Scripture is in fact God-breathed and it "contradicts" itself, then you are saying that God contradicts Himself.  Is this your contention? 

Rather, speak of complimentary doctrines, or if you want to sound more technical, speak of irremdiably vague governing doctrines (such as properly distinguishing Law and Gospel) that find their specificity in their actualy application.  There is nothing contradictory about such governing doctrines that take into account the situation and needs of the person being addressed.  Rather, governing doctrines like being a theologian of the cross or properly distinguishing Law and Gospel feed off of this encounter and help us to address the right Word of God to a particular person for that time.  It doesn't mean that the doctrines are contradictory or really even in tension; rather, it means that doctrine is a complex whole (that is why I sometimes use the word "narrative" to refer to this complex whole) out of which application flows.


And I frequently ask, who is the author of your sermons? Are they inspired writings/proclamations? If you do not believe that God breathes life into your sermons, why bother with them? They would be no different than a high school student reading a paper in class.

I am the author my sermons, and insofar as they agree with the inspired Word of God, my sermons are the proclamation of that Word as well.  So in this sense, yes, I agree that they are inspired.  But they are not written by an apostle or by a follower of one, neither have they been set apart by virtue of their universal usage in the Christian congregations of the Church and so are not paradigmatic instances of the proclamation like the Bible is and neither do they carry that authority. 

This is an easy, non-mysterious distinction to make.  God's Word is to be preached, to be proclaimed, and if I proclaim my words while purporting to proclaim God's Word, I put myself in a situation where I need to make sure that there aren't any millstones near at hand.  So yes, in a sense you can speak of the spoken Word being inspired, but this does not thereby make it equal or on a par with the biblical witness.  Rather, the biblical witness functions as a norm over the spoken Word, even as the spoken Word is privileged above the written Word in the order of salvation (ordo salutis) in that it is principally through the spoken Word (which includes the Sacraments) that God creates and nurtures faith.  The written Word (the Bible) is the source of the proclamation and norms it.  But both are the Word of God, even as Jesus himself is, in fact, the Word of God incarnate and so the one from whom the others "forms" of the Word derive.

If you understand this, it is easy to see how a sermon is, in fact, the spoken Word of God as long as it proclaims the same message that the written Word proclaims.  You also easily understand how what is normed (the sermon / spoken Word) does not itself become the norm (the written Word).  My sermons do not norm the Bible.  Neither does my practice of baptism or the Lord's Supper serve as a norm to judge the Bible's teaching on the issue.  Rather, Scripture is the source and the norm of the spoken Word even as the spoken Word is that which is principally used to bring salvation to folks.

Pretty simple, really.


We have the OT as a gift. However, when Paul preached to the Greeks, he didn't quote the OT at all. Rather he quoted writings familiar to the Greeks. Luke makes very little use of the OT in his story of Jesus. One can read it, understand much about Jesus without knowing the OT. Similarly with John. Most people probably don't recognize the parallels in John 1 with wisdom literature. (There we have a problem about which canon should we use. There are writings that are considered (deutero-)canonical by some Christians and not by others.)

Yet Paul did not settle for only using "writings familiar to Greeks" in the long run.  Look at the book of Romans.  There you find Paul engaging in scriptural exegesis (and basing his whole argument on that exegesis) to a Gentile congregation.  If you want to fully and sufficiently understand what God did, you need the entire corpus of Scripture.  Even basic Christian proclamation requires a knowledge of the biblical God of the OT.  That's one reason why, at the Aeropogus, when Paul gets to the resurrection of the dead (a biblical concept), the discussion breaks down.  They didn't buy it because they didn't have the proper categories.

But if one tries to make [the Scriptures] all say exactly the same thing, the interrelationship is lost. If the whole body were a foot, where would the body be? It's their differences, I find, that make synoptic studies so interesting. It is the tension between Paul and James that make them both come alive. It is seeing how Revelation adapts literally hundreds of OT images that help us make sense of that book of symbolism.

One doesn't have to adopt non-Christian categories of interpretation -- like Adoptionism, for example -- to properly understand the variety in the Scriptures.  Yes, like I said earlier, we have four Gospels because we need all four to give us a full and sufficient rendering of the life of Jesus.  But this is easily done without importing in non-Christian perspectives and assumptions as if these would somehow help us read our own Christian texts.

To repeat, the aim of the biblical critic is to approach scriptures as unbiasly as possible. It is precisely when I find a biblical text challenging me, that the bible really fulfills its God-breathed functions. If all I find are truths that I already know, the Bible hasn't taught me anything. It hasn't rebuked or corrected anything. A statement in the introduction of The Five Gospels is: "Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you" (p. 5). Such a Jesus is likely to be your own projection of Jesus rather than the one actually found in scriptures.

Why do you adopt the bias of desiring to be a "biblical critic"?  I agree that such would try to approach the Scriptures "as unbiasly as possible".  Of course, like I said above, this is a fallacy and really a cover for the will-to-power; it is simply a rhetorical power-play.  By maintaining such a myth, "biblical critics" do regularly deceive the people to keep their chairs in universities and other places even as the results of their work -- by your own admission -- do not serve the Church, the very people for whom the Scriptures were given in the first place.  Rather, their efforts serve themselves (many times out of a good, though misguided, heart!) frequently allowing them to maintain their academic "respectability" and so their chosen livelihood, or serve an idle speculation about what might have happened rather than engaging people with the message of redemption in Christ.

Why would you want to adopt the bias of a biblical critic?

As to finding where the text actually challenges you, that's easy.  It doesn't require a PhD or an MDiv or a BA or even a GED.  A child can find that out.  I read the 4th commandment to my kids from time to time, and they get the point.  My 6 year old son and I had a long conversation about baptism, our eventual deaths due to sin, but the hope of the resurrection as being the great hope.  He understood that he, too, will die, and he understood that is true because "the wages of sin is death".  But he also understood the greater hope that we have in what Jesus has done for us -- that even death will be overcome on the Last Day.

It is easy to be challenged by the Bible.  There is no reason to make it sound so mysterious or difficult.

As to finding a Jesus' congenial to yourself, hmmm.  My online observation of your apparent desire for ambiguity and your corresponding projection of such ambiguity upon God and His Word seems to correspond to your injunction.  Physician, heal thyself.

Though I will also agree that, being sinners, we all do this.  None of us want to let God be God and remain "merely" as His creatures.  But this is how we have, in fact, been created.  And we do praise God for it, and we will always praise God for it as we live with Him in eternity.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ROB_MOSKOWITZ on August 02, 2007, 11:19:27 AM
Its the post modern interpretation shell game, hermeneutic of smoke and mirrors that allows church officials to make statements such as "I don't believe in the Bible, I believe in God" and still consider themselves fellow lutherans and members of the body of Christ.
Can you give a reference of a church official actually making that statement. If not, you are bearing false witness.
Oh yes I do but choose not to do so here.  If folks want to discuss it they can contact me.  So excuse me for not taking your bait.
Funny how you did not declare false witness when it was born against me recently by an anonymous poster? 

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I have and will say that we are not saved by the Bible, but we are saved by God or God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

And yet again this was not what was asked?   No one declared we where saved by the bible did they?   And how do we know about our being saved by God's grace in Jesus Christ?  Sola Scriptura?

Rob Moskowitz
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 11:57:06 AM
To Borg, and apparently to you as you seemed to be quoting him in order to support your point, the actual resurrection seems to be a "take-it-or-leave-it" occurrence.
First of all, the empty tomb stories are different than resurrection appearance stories. An empty tomb does not prove the resurrection.

Secondly, I have also stated that I don't agree with everything Borg says. I have said that I believe that the resurrection really happened. The tomb was empty.

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Here comes the point that I started with in this thread and which I'm still not sure if you have caught because you have not yet reflected it: that is, the resurrection cannot be approached as a "take-it-or-leave-it-event" and have your theology still remain Christian.  Downgrading the central importance of this historical occurrence from something critical to Christian theology to a "take-it-or-leave-it" teaching betrays a doctrine whose very structure is no longer Christian.
You don't seem to catch the difference between believing that the resurrection really happened and that it is necessary for Christian faith; and that the resurrection appearance stories probably did not happen just as they are recorded in scriptures. Similarly, but to a less extent, not all of the details, such as the number of women or number of angels, can't be confirmed from the empty tomb stories; but that isn't a denial of the historical event.

I've also said that I disagree with Crossan who argues that normally the bodies of crucifixion victions were left on their crosses to be eaten by birds and dogs, that must have happened to Jesus. (Borg does not argue for that in the book that I've been quoting.) There has been the remains of one victim of crucifixion that was found in a tomb. So we know that exceptions to the rule took place. It stands to reason to me that Jesus, with the following that he had, did have someone or a group ask for his body to give him a proper burial, which then leads to the empty tomb stories, and then the resurrection appearance stories; and as they say about movies, "Based on actual events."

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Earlier, you said that you do agree with Paul that if Christ were not raised, our faith is in vain.  If this is true, do you agree that Borg is here both mistaken and misleading in that he does not appear to place any central importance upon the fact of the physical resurrection for the Christian faith (which is different from Paul, and as you said before, apparently yourself)?
Borg has said elsewhere, and I've quoted it, that he believes that Christ was raised from the dead. I believe that he is more inclined to view the stories of the resurrection appearance to Paul in Acts as "normative" -- a bright light, a voice -- rather than the accounts in the gospels.


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Actually, your first and third full sentences are just repeating what I said.  I said that it was one doctrinal trajectory "that developed out of the early church and the way she read her texts."  The key point is that it's an errant trajectory because it cannot do justice to Mark's message.  That is, again, unless you are saying that Mark does teach Adoptionism and that such a teaching is God-breathed and so divine.  Are you saying that?
I'm saying that the inspired gospel of Mark can be read and interpreted as teaching adoptionism, just as the book of James can be read and interpreted as teaching works righteousness. I'm saying that the theological differences we find in scriptures are no different than the theological differences we find among believers in this forum.

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Here, we are closer to agreement.  Add to your last statement the role of the proclamation of Christ and you have yourself a winner.

However, you do need to be stronger in pointing out how such "Gospels" (like the prosperity "Gospel" that is preached all over Africa [and here]) are really no Gospel at all.  I've seen people give all of their money to these "preachers" and descend even further into the depths of poverty than they ever were before, living in horrific slums like Kibera outside of Nairobi.  And when they come asking the preacher why God hasn't blessed the financial "seed" they sowed, the preacher invariable accuses them of lacking faith, even as he purchases a car for himself.  This needs to be identified for what it is -- another Gospel, one preached by a person who is only interested in their bellies and used to steal money from people.
Much of this theology comes from Oral Roberts and his "seed faith" theology. Plant the seed and God will provide the growth. I read a number of his books in my younger, pre-seminary days. Would you call him a non-Christian because he preaches a different gospel? What about all the Pentecostals who stress the necessity of a two stage conversion -- the second stage involving speaking in tongues. Do we declare all of them to be non-Christian because they have a different gospel than us? As I noted somewhere else, the key criteria, at least in 1 John, for spiritual orthodoxy is confessing that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (1 John 4:2) -- it's not grace or faith but the fleshiness of Jesus. I also asked if that should be taken as a universal criteria -- because Oral Roberts and the Pentecostals confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh they must have the Spirit of God; or is it specific to the docetism problem that 1 John addresses, and thus doesn't apply to issues like speaking in tongues or the seed faith prosperity gospel.

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It's not just a matter of "winning" or "losing" a theological battle, unless you mean to say that the errant positions did not reflect the deep logic (or "depth grammar") of the Christian proclamation.  Creedal Christianity doesdo  justice to the Christian proclamation and the Scriptures; other doctrines do not.  That's why they "lost".
I'm surprised that you didn't state that they "lost" because the God inspired the orthodox positions. That's what I have said. The Church believes that God was behind the "battles" and led the leaders to adopt orthodoxy by the inspiration of the Spirit.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Eric_Swensson on August 02, 2007, 12:03:23 PM
First of all, the empty tomb stories are different than resurrection appearance stories. An empty tomb does not prove the resurrection.

What is the difference? Is there some sort of "empty tomb genre" of which some is Chrisitan and some is not? What is th epoint of this differentiation since all accounts of Jesus' empty tomb is part of the gospel writers' account of the resurrection? 
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Eric_Swensson on August 02, 2007, 12:07:49 PM

You don't seem to catch the difference between believing that the resurrection really happened and that it is necessary for Christian faith; and that the resurrection appearance stories probably did not happen just as they are recorded in scriptures.

What is the difference?

How are you able to tell when you are reading "a story" and what is "the truth" on which one would base faith? Or is faith based in something else?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Mike Bennett on August 02, 2007, 12:12:06 PM

You don't seem to catch the difference between believing that the resurrection really happened and that it is necessary for Christian faith; and that the resurrection appearance stories probably did not happen just as they are recorded in scriptures.

What is the difference?

How are you able to tell when you are reading "a story" and what is "the truth" on which one would base faith? Or is faith based in something else?

And specifically, where on earth would I come up with a crazy concept like "the resurrection" without the "resurrection appearance stories"   as they're recorded in Scripture?

Mike Bennett
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 01:11:43 PM
These are already powerful biases, and if you jettison these OR EVEN WANT TO JETTISON THEM you are misunderstanding what it means to be a Christian interpreter of Scripture.
Biblical exegetes do not have to be Christian. Jews and Muslims interpret scriptures. The Bible is taught as literature in colleges. Interpreting scriptures and proclaiming the gospel are not the same thing. If, in a homiletics class you simply read the book of James, do you think the instructor would say that you had preached the gospel, or preached only law?

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We read the Bible because we are Christian.  We are biased because our lives have been grasped and transformed by Christ, and we want to learn more about who it is that did that and grow in our love and trust of him.  We also read the Bible so that the joy which we found in the Christian proclamation can overflow to others in a message that properly reflects what Jesus did and is doing. These are biases that should be embraced and reveled in, not eschewed or downplayed.
There is a difference between devotional reading of scriptures and exegetical reading. For devotional reading I will use the CEV or The Message. For exegetical work, I use the Greek. For devotional reading I seek to open myself to hear what God is saying to me. For exegetical work, I work at uncovering what the author was saying to his first readers.

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But in no case can you ever actually be unbiased.

True, but one can be less biased. I recognize my biases. I have said of particular passages, "I don't agree with this." Why, because it doesn't fit my gospel-centered bias.

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you don't even recognize what you see as a particular category but simply "the way things are".

I disagree. It is through reading people who see things differently than I, such as Crossan, or Borg, or perhaps Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony, (which Irl G. recommended,) that helps us see things from a perspective different from our own bias. It may not change our bias, but it will help clarify our biases.

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The "unbiased" approach is simply a cover for the will-to-power.  Rather than being honest and forthright about biases, such an approach attempts to deceive the hearers that your particular set of biases have some privileged position to which they do not have access.  As such, it is a rhetorical power-play and nothing more.
Again, it is an attempt to be less biased, not unbiased. It is consciously reading commentaries by people who I know have different biases than I. It is pretending, as much as possible, each time I read a passage, that I'm reading it for the very first time, which usually results in seeing things that I hadn't seen before.


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I see that you did not answer my question.  If you are contending that James is really teaching that salvation is not by faith alone but by works as well, please come right out and say it.  Assuming that you accept James as inspired by God, that would mean that you believe that this is divine, God-inspired teaching as well.  Do you or don't you?
I believe that James is a God-inspired teaching -- it's just not Lutheran in its emphasis.

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If you're saying that James does teach that the central tenent of the Gospel is wrong -- that is, if you think that he is denying that we are justified by grace through faith -- you are misreading James.  

I argue that when you impose justification by grace through faith into James, you are misreading him. You are imposing a doctrine (a good and most important doctrine,) onto a writing where it is not found.

Three times James uses "justified"

2:21 Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?
2:24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
2:25 Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road?

How can you read those passages and say that James is not promoting justification by works?

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Quite simply, James is speaking of something that Luther and Christians have always taught -- that faith is a living, active, powerful thing that issues forth in good works.  It is inconceivable that such a faith would not help the neighbor.  Of what benefit or advantage (ophelos) would that faith be?  Rather it would be dead.
James uses language much different than Paul's "faith active in love." See above for James language of "justification by works".

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If you are saying that Scripture is in fact God-breathed and it "contradicts" itself, then you are saying that God contradicts Himself.  Is this your contention?  

Yup -- something common in Hebrew thought based on verbs. Saying that God loves, can lead to contradictory actions of spanking a child or hugging a child -- often parents do this with the same child over the same incident. Punishment and reward -- contradictory actions, but all based on the common motivation of loving the child.

It might be better to talk about paradoxes than contradictions. Another one is "God accepts us just the way we are" and "God changes us." Both are true. They could be seen as contradictory.

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Rather, speak of complimentary doctrines, or if you want to sound more technical, speak of irremdiably vague governing doctrines (such as properly distinguishing Law and Gospel) that find their specificity in their actualy application.  There is nothing contradictory about such governing doctrines that take into account the situation and needs of the person being addressed.  Rather, governing doctrines like being a theologian of the cross or properly distinguishing Law and Gospel feed off of this encounter and help us to address the right Word of God to a particular person for that time.  It doesn't mean that the doctrines are contradictory or really even in tension; rather, it means that doctrine is a complex whole (that is why I sometimes use the word "narrative" to refer to this complex whole) out of which application flows.
To repeat a criticism I stated somewhere earlier, it's one thing to talk about scriptures, e.g., properly distinguishing Law and Gospel, it's anothing thing to actually exegete passages of scriptures. You argue the doctrine of justification by grace through faith -- something I have argued as being the core of my theology. However, I present scripture passages that clearly state a belief by James of justification by works. That's the language he uses. As I asked in an earlier note, which takes precedence our doctrine or biblical passages?

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I am the author my sermons, and insofar as they agree with the inspired Word of God, my sermons are the proclamation of that Word as well.  So in this sense, yes, I agree that they are inspired.  But they are not written by an apostle or by a follower of one, neither have they been set apart by virtue of their universal usage in the Christian congregations of the Church and so are not paradigmatic instances of the proclamation like the Bible is and neither do they carry that authority.  

Granted our sermons do not have the authoritative stamp of approval of the Church, yet, if they are the inspired Word of God that we proclaim, they contain the same power as scriptures to produce and sustain faith. If not, why bother preaching.

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So yes, in a sense you can speak of the spoken Word being inspired, but this does not thereby make it equal or on a par with the biblical witness.
I argue that as "Word of God" it contains the same power as scriptures. It does not have the same universal authority as scriptures, but as the Word that Isaiah promised would not come back void, the gospel in our sermons has that power.

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If you understand this, it is easy to see how a sermon is, in fact, the spoken Word of God as long as it proclaims the same message that the written Word proclaims.

Ah, but we've been arguing whether or not the written Word always proclaim the orthodox doctrine of the church. In preaching, we Lutherans are bound to have a law/gospel bias. We are bound to stress God's actions on behalf of sinful humanity -- both convicting us of sin and forgiving those sins. Not all passages of scriptures proclaim that doctrine -- thus the rise of many different denominations.

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You also easily understand how what is normed (the sermon / spoken Word) does not itself become the norm (the written Word).  My sermons do not norm the Bible.  Neither does my practice of baptism or the Lord's Supper serve as a norm to judge the Bible's teaching on the issue.  Rather, Scripture is the source and the norm of the spoken Word even as the spoken Word is that which is principally used to bring salvation to folks.
I would argue, and use as evidence the ELCA Confession of Faith, that there are norms that rank higher than scriptures in our preaching and teaching: the doctrine of the Trinity, the confession of Jesus Christ as savior and Lord and the power of the gospel for salvation to all who believe.

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One doesn't have to adopt non-Christian categories of interpretation -- like Adoptionism, for example -- to properly understand the variety in the Scriptures.  Yes, like I said earlier, we have four Gospels because we need all four to give us a full and sufficient rendering of the life of Jesus.  But this is easily done without importing in non-Christian perspectives and assumptions as if these would somehow help us read our own Christian texts.
I'm not saying that we adopt non-Christian categories, but that we try as much as possible when exegeticing scriptures, to approach them with no categories -- to read them again for the very first time.

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Why do you adopt the bias of desiring to be a "biblical critic"?  I agree that such would try to approach the Scriptures "as unbiasly as possible".  Of course, like I said above, this is a fallacy and really a cover for the will-to-power; it is simply a rhetorical power-play.  

I am a biblical critic because I want to try and clearly understand what the Bible proclaimed to its original audience, how they were likely to respond to the message, how the message may be understood and applied in contemporary situations, how people today respond (in their various ways) to the message. It's also a fallacy that one can't reduce the amount of bias one uses in approaching scriptures.

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By maintaining such a myth, "biblical critics" do regularly deceive the people to keep their chairs in universities and other places even as the results of their work -- by your own admission -- do not serve the Church, the very people for whom the Scriptures were given in the first place.  Rather, their efforts serve themselves (many times out of a good, though misguided, heart!) frequently allowing them to maintain their academic "respectability" and so their chosen livelihood, or serve an idle speculation about what might have happened rather than engaging people with the message of redemption in Christ.
I am not sitting in a chair of a university. I am a pastor who preaches to people every week. I am an exegete who provides "notes" to literally thousands of pastors on the gospel text each week -- with the idea of what is preachable about the texts.

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Why would you want to adopt the bias of a biblical critic?
Because that is the best way to reduce the imposition of my own ideas onto the text, and let the text speak for itself. More often than not, such a study leaves me with more questions than answers. The latest question based on Luke 12:19 (part of Sunday's gospel). The rich fool says to himself: "You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." The question it poses for me is about storying up funds in a pension account that will last for many years, so that in retirement, I (or others) can take life easy, will have sufficient funds for food and drink and entertainment. Is storing up funds in retirement accounts being foolish? Does this text speak against it? I don't yet have an answer or a sermon on that issue, but those are questions that I plan to deal with -- that I believe the text asks us. (Again, I'm not arguing about the Bible, but strugging with a text in the Bible.)

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As to finding where the text actually challenges you, that's easy.  It doesn't require a PhD or an MDiv or a BA or even a GED.  A child can find that out.  I read the 4th commandment to my kids from time to time, and they get the point.  My 6 year old son and I had a long conversation about baptism, our eventual deaths due to sin, but the hope of the resurrection as being the great hope.  He understood that he, too, will die, and he understood that is true because "the wages of sin is death".  But he also understood the greater hope that we have in what Jesus has done for us -- that even death will be overcome on the Last Day.
The Gospel of John has been described as so shallow that a child can wade in it and so deep that it can drown an elephant. It's another one of the Christian paradoxes: Christianity is so simply that children can understand it; and so complex that the greatest minds on earth cannot fully grasp the infinite God.

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As to finding a Jesus' congenial to yourself, hmmm.  My online observation of your apparent desire for ambiguity and your corresponding projection of such ambiguity upon God and His Word seems to correspond to your injunction.  Physician, heal thyself.
I just present what I see in the texts (usually in their original language) and there is almost always choices to be made in translation and interpretation and application, e.g., Should Mark 1:1 include "son of God?" Why or why not? If it is included, should it be translated "the son of God" or "a son of God" -- the Greek does not have the definite article "the," but translators can give arguments why it should be included. The Greek is ambiguous. I just call things the way they are -- some people are not comfortable with hearing how many "human" decisions go into translating scriptures which can be quite ambiguous in their possible meanings.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 01:13:40 PM
And yet again this was not what was asked?   No one declared we where saved by the bible did they?   And how do we know about our being saved by God's grace in Jesus Christ?  Sola Scriptura?
And sola fide and sola gratia -- I don't think that the three can be separated. Proclaiming scriptures without the guides of faith and grace can lead to all kinds of heresies.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 01:17:24 PM
What is the difference? Is there some sort of "empty tomb genre" of which some is Chrisitan and some is not? What is th epoint of this differentiation since all accounts of Jesus' empty tomb is part of the gospel writers' account of the resurrection? 
1. Part of the differentiation is because there are a lot of points of agreement in the gospels concerning the empty tomb stories. There are few agreements about the appearance stories.

2. Mark has an empty tomb story (and the angel's proclamation of the resurrection,) but there are no resurrection appearance stories.

3. There are extra-biblical empty tomb stories in the Gospel of Peter and Acts of Pilate. While they are about Jesus, are they Christian or not?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ROB_MOSKOWITZ on August 02, 2007, 01:28:08 PM
And yet again this was not what was asked?   No one declared we where saved by the bible did they?   And how do we know about our being saved by God's grace in Jesus Christ?  Sola Scriptura?
And sola fide and sola gratia -- I don't think that the three can be separated.
Did I say I would separate them?   Scripture itslef proclaimes faith and grace.   That is unless you dont believe what scripture states.

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Proclaiming scriptures without the guides of faith and grace can lead to all kinds of heresies.
Show me in confessions what you mean by "Guides"?    Yes indeed heresies did come to mind.

Rob Moskowitz
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 01:28:28 PM
What is the difference?

How are you able to tell when you are reading "a story" and what is "the truth" on which one would base faith? Or is faith based in something else?
It is a fairly common experiment in college, during a class period, someone rushes in grabs something, and runs out. Then the students are asked to say what happened. Seldom are the stories consistent. All are based on the same event, (the true or actual event that could be video-taped.) We could say that all the stories are the story-teller's experience of the true event, and the way they tell their stories and the details they remember will differ. Someone might be able to take the stories and from common elements, construct what likely happened during the few seconds that the person was in the classroom; but when comparing the stories to a video tape of the event, errors in the stories will be noted -- errors that the story-tellers are likely to insist were real in their experience of the event.

The truth is Christ was crucified and raised from the dead. Without that truth our faith is in vain. None of the resurrection appearance stories in the different gospels attempt to describe the same event. They are all different events, so we don't even have competing stories by which to guess at what "really happened," just one person's experience of what happened. The common element in these stories as that Jesus was seen to be alive again and that he drastically changed the disciples' lives. That is reported in the story about the disciples behind locked doors in Jerusalem, the two disciples from Emmaus, and even Paul on the Damascus Road.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 01:30:44 PM
And specifically, where on earth would I come up with a crazy concept like "the resurrection" without the "resurrection appearance stories"   as they're recorded in Scripture?
The stories are based on true events. Details are likely to have been changed over the decades, or selectively remembered.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ROB_MOSKOWITZ on August 02, 2007, 01:38:52 PM
None of the resurrection appearance stories in the different gospels attempt to describe the same event. They are all different events, so we don't even have competing stories by which to guess at what "really happened," just one person's experience of what happened. The common element in these stories as that Jesus was seen to be alive again and that he drastically changed the disciples' lives. That is reported in the story about the disciples behind locked doors in Jerusalem, the two disciples from Emmaus, and even Paul on the Damascus Road.

Are you saying you dont believe the Gospel writiers where inspired by God to give thier accounts?    Is Jesus' resurection simply a "common element"  in "just one person's experience of what happened".    So Scriptures do not declare what "really happened," .   WOW!! 

You got one thing right "Without that truth our faith is in vain".

Rob Moskowitz
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 01:43:07 PM
Are you saying you dont believe the Gospel writiers where inspired by God to give thier accounts?    Is Jesus' resurection simply a "common element"  in "just one person's experience of what happened".    So Scriptures do not declare what "really happened," .   WOW!! 
I return to my often asked question, did Mark 16:8 really happen as reported? Did the women say nothing to anyone?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ROB_MOSKOWITZ on August 02, 2007, 01:47:49 PM
None of the resurrection appearance stories in the different gospels attempt to describe the same event. They are all different events, so we don't even have competing stories by which to guess at what "really happened," just one person's experience of what happened. The common element in these stories as that Jesus was seen to be alive again and that he drastically changed the disciples' lives. That is reported in the story about the disciples behind locked doors in Jerusalem, the two disciples from Emmaus, and even Paul on the Damascus Road.

Are you saying you dont believe the Gospel writiers where inspired by God to give thier accounts?    Is Jesus' resurection simply a "common element"  in "just one person's experience of what happened".    So Scriptures do not declare what "really happened," .   WOW!! 

You got one thing right "Without that truth our faith is in vain".

Rob Moskowitz

Brian Please answer the question.  Is this what you believe and teach?

Rob Moskowitz
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 02:02:53 PM
Brian Please answer the question.  Is this what you believe and teach?
I believe and teach what we confess in our Creeds and in our ELCA's Confession of Faith.

You didn't answer my question. Did Mark 16:8 really happen as the gospel reports it?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Gladfelteri on August 02, 2007, 02:09:04 PM
Brian Please answer the question.  Is this what you believe and teach?
I believe and teach what we confess in our Creeds and in our ELCA's Confession of Faith.

You didn't answer my question. Did Mark 16:8 really happen as the gospel reports it?
Um . . . what might lead you to doubt it?

Peace,
Irl
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 03:33:54 PM
Um . . . what might lead you to doubt it?
1. We know about the resurrection, so somebody must have said something to someone. However, if Mark were the only gospel we had, based on that story, I would argue that our knowledge of the resurrection happened because the angel's promise came true. In spite of the women's failure to speak, the disciples went home to Galilee, and there they saw the risen Jesus. One of Mark's themes is Christ's faithfulness to his unfaithful disciples. It occurs throughout the gospel, and ends with the final failure and angelic promise.

2. Matthew and Luke have different endings. Matthew 21:8 declares that the women ran and reported to the disciples -- and Jesus met them on the way. There is no mention of their silence. Luke 24:9 tells us that the women told the angel's message to the 11 and all the rest -- but they didn't believe them. (There is no account of Jesus appearing to the women on their way and no mention of their silence.) John tells us that Mary saw the empty tomb, then went and told the disciples. She then sees the risen Jesus, but doesn't recognize him at first. Then she tells the disciples that she has seen the Lord. (There's no angel message in John.)

3. One can, as people throughout history have done, and add additional words or stories to the end of Mark so that it fits with the other gospels. Even Steven Tibbetts did this when he suggested that the women were silent "at first". That isn't what Mark says.

It points out quite different approaches to scriptures to say that either Mark is right and the women were silent and the others are wrong or the others are right and spoke the message and Mark was wrong; or when one harmonizes the stories and argue that at first the women were silent, then followed the angel's instructions; or if one lets each gospel writer speak his own story about Jesus -- that for Mark, the women are silent -- another indication of the disciples' failure to do as commanded. For Matthew and Luke, the women speak. In John, there is only Mary who speaks twice. And there is no attempt to try and harmonize the stories, but let each one declare its own message.

In a similar way, my guess is that if you and I preached a sermon on the same gospel text, our sermons would be quite different; partly because we are different with different emphases in our theologies and because we are preaching to different congregations. That doesn't mean that one is right and the other is wrong. Both can be proclamations of the Word of God -- the gospel that has the power to save those who believe.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ROB_MOSKOWITZ on August 02, 2007, 03:42:41 PM
Um . . . what might lead you to doubt it?
1. We know about the resurrection, so somebody must have said something to someone. However, if Mark were the only gospel we had, based on that story, I would argue that our knowledge of the resurrection happened because the angel's promise came true. In spite of the women's failure to speak, the disciples went home to Galilee, and there they saw the risen Jesus. One of Mark's themes is Christ's faithfulness to his unfaithful disciples. It occurs throughout the gospel, and ends with the final failure and angelic promise.

2. Matthew and Luke have different endings. Matthew 21:8 declares that the women ran and reported to the disciples -- and Jesus met them on the way. There is no mention of their silence. Luke 24:9 tells us that the women told the angel's message to the 11 and all the rest -- but they didn't believe them. (There is no account of Jesus appearing to the women on their way and no mention of their silence.) John tells us that Mary saw the empty tomb, then went and told the disciples. She then sees the risen Jesus, but doesn't recognize him at first. Then she tells the disciples that she has seen the Lord. (There's no angel message in John.)

3. One can, as people throughout history have done, and add additional words or stories to the end of Mark so that it fits with the other gospels. Even Steven Tibbetts did this when he suggested that the women were silent "at first". That isn't what Mark says.

It points out quite different approaches to scriptures to say that either Mark is right and the women were silent and the others are wrong or the others are right and spoke the message and Mark was wrong; or when one harmonizes the stories and argue that at first the women were silent, then followed the angel's instructions; or if one lets each gospel writer speak his own story about Jesus -- that for Mark, the women are silent -- another indication of the disciples' failure to do as commanded. For Matthew and Luke, the women speak. In John, there is only Mary who speaks twice. And there is no attempt to try and harmonize the stories, but let each one declare its own message.

In a similar way, my guess is that if you and I preached a sermon on the same gospel text, our sermons would be quite different; partly because we are different with different emphases in our theologies and because we are preaching to different congregations. That doesn't mean that one is right and the other is wrong. Both can be proclamations of the Word of God -- the gospel that has the power to save those who believe.

Wow no truth?  Thus all is true?  All by trying to play the biblical witness against itself.

That is the case "the gospel that has the power to save those who believe".  Which Gospel is the question?   The one proclaimed in scripture or the one thats left after the autopsy.

Ill take the clear witness of scripture over the smoke and mirrors.

Rob Moskowitz
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Mike Bennett on August 02, 2007, 04:23:43 PM
And specifically, where on earth would I come up with a crazy concept like "the resurrection" without the "resurrection appearance stories"   as they're recorded in Scripture?
The stories are based on true events. Details are likely to have been changed over the decades, or selectively remembered.

If I believe the reality of the resurrection but can't rely on the Scriptural resurrection accounts, what do I rely on? 

Mike Bennett
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Mike Bennett on August 02, 2007, 04:26:10 PM
Are you saying you dont believe the Gospel writiers where inspired by God to give thier accounts?    Is Jesus' resurection simply a "common element"  in "just one person's experience of what happened".    So Scriptures do not declare what "really happened," .   WOW!! 
I return to my often asked question, did Mark 16:8 really happen as reported? Did the women say nothing to anyone?

Steven Tibbetts answered that question last week.  Most recently.  I believe his answer was "Not then."

Mike Bennett
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on August 02, 2007, 04:28:29 PM
A statement in the introduction of The Five Gospels is: "Beware of finding a Jesus entirely congenial to you" (p. 5). Such a Jesus is likely to be your own projection of Jesus rather than the one actually found in scriptures.

Proposed truism: "Beware of book introductions that instruct you to 'beware of' something.  So often, what follows is precisely that 'something,' but the author wants you to think otherwise."  Sort of like a wolf in wolf's clothing telling you he is a sheep in sheep's clothing.  

The worst part of this truism is that these wolves often really believe that they are sheep.  Even as they ravenously swallow sheep whole.

pax, spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on August 02, 2007, 04:55:05 PM
Even Steven Tibbetts did this when he suggested that the women were silent "at first". That isn't what Mark says.

1) I must confess that I get a charge out of being used as the measure for a particular point-of-view.  It's like the time during a Synod Assembly debate (with the Presiding Bishop in the room) where, rather than addressing the resolution, speakers began opening their statements with, "I (dis-) agree with Pastor Tibbetts..."  OTOH, it is quite disconcerting, as suddenly the issue has then become me -- and it's not about me.

2) To borrow one of your exegetical techniques, "Mark doesn't not say it, either."  Your presumption, too, is that the original audience is totally ignorant of anything about Christ that cannot be found in (in this case) Mark's gospel.  This is a presumption that I do not share.

pax, spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ptmccain on August 02, 2007, 05:01:06 PM
I agree with Steven.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on August 02, 2007, 05:13:15 PM
 :-[
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: ROB_MOSKOWITZ on August 02, 2007, 05:27:54 PM
Are you saying you dont believe the Gospel writiers where inspired by God to give thier accounts?    Is Jesus' resurection simply a "common element"  in "just one person's experience of what happened".    So Scriptures do not declare what "really happened," .   WOW!! 
I return to my often asked question, did Mark 16:8 really happen as reported? Did the women say nothing to anyone?

Steven Tibbetts answered that question last week.  Most recently.  I believe his answer was "Not then."

Mike Bennett

Indeed that is an appropreate answer!

Rob Moskowitz
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 09:20:04 PM
Ill take the clear witness of scripture over the smoke and mirrors.
Please tell me exactly what happened at the empty tomb? Who saw it? What was said? What happened afterwards? To whom did the risen Jesus appear and when?

I note that you reference the witness of scriptures, without ever stating what scriptures say.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 09:20:41 PM
If I believe the reality of the resurrection but can't rely on the Scriptural resurrection accounts, what do I rely on? 
The faithfulness of God to unfaithful, sinful, believers.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 09:23:38 PM
Steven Tibbetts answered that question last week.  Most recently.  I believe his answer was "Not then."
Yes, he did. That's Steve's answer. It's not Mark's. It comes from a learned pastor. It does not come from scriptures.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 09:24:13 PM
I agree with Steven.
I'll agree with the Gospel of Mark.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on August 02, 2007, 10:21:44 PM
I agree with Steven.
I'll agree with the Gospel of Mark.

Steven agrees with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  And the Epistles, the Creeds...



Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Mike Bennett on August 02, 2007, 10:55:58 PM
If I believe the reality of the resurrection but can't rely on the Scriptural resurrection accounts, what do I rely on? 
The faithfulness of God to unfaithful, sinful, believers.

Where do I learn of such an astonishing thing as the faithfulness of God to unfaithful, sinful believers?  The craziest optimist couldn't make it up, and I can't rely on the witness of Scripture?
 
 :(  Mike Bennett
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 11:21:19 PM
Steven agrees with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  And the Epistles, the Creeds...
But I'm just looking at the Gospel of Mark. For many years, that was the only gospel that Mark's community had. That was the source of their faith and knowledge about Jesus. It would take another 10-20 years before the other gospels were written; and who knows when they were put together into a collection.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 02, 2007, 11:23:25 PM
Where do I learn of such an astonishing thing as the faithfulness of God to unfaithful, sinful believers?  The craziest optimist couldn't make it up, and I can't rely on the witness of Scripture?
Read the gospel of Mark. Assumption one about reading scriptures: the people were expected to read through the entire book; not just pick and choose parts of it. Assumption two about reading scriptures: the people were expected to read it from start to finish, not jump around. So, read through the gospel and note especially how the disciples are characterized in this gospel.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Mel Harris on August 02, 2007, 11:25:58 PM

Steven agrees with the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  And the Epistles, the Creeds...


Then, I agree with Steven.     :P

Mel Harris
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 03, 2007, 12:33:33 AM
Brian,

You are misreading the aorist as conveying a gnomic or durative / habitual / intensive idea.  It does not.  No time frame is specified or can be derived from the use of the aorist in the case of Mark 16:8.  The tense simply does not indicate whether or not the action referred to occurred for 5 seconds or for 100 years or is an eternal truth.  It is in the nature of the aorist to be vague on this, and this vagueness of a historical "snapshot" is typical for the aorist and by far its most common use.

The context of the hearers, especially given that Mark's audience did know, in fact, that the women broke their silence would also indicate that you are misreading the statement in this case (if the women never told anyone, how would the early Christians have known?). 

Tense, too, indicates this. Translating or understanding the use of the aorist in a habitual, durative or intensive fashion is inappropriate to the tense in general.  It would be more appropriate to the imperfect or, more likely, the perfect.  The aorist only rarely has a gnomic sense in the NT, and there is no indication that it would have such here.  Rather, it's simply describing a completed action without implying any time period.

The context of Mark indicates this as well.  Mark wrote to people who had heard of Jesus' resurrection and believed in him, and who could only have heard of this through the message of the women.  So it is a dramatic, poignant ending to the book of Mark to leave the question hanging with the hearers -- did the women tell?  Did they go to Galilee?  Was Jesus faithful and meet them there?  All the while knowing that the answer to each of these questions is "yes".  Such an ending brings home Mark's point in a powerful fashion precisely by leaving the question hanging -- but if he did write in such a fashion to indicate that he was saying that the women never told anyone anything, the question wouldn't be hanging at all.  Rather, it would have been answered in a non-sensical fashion where someone else had to find out about Jesus' resurrection rather than the women, and no story that we have indicates that such is the case.  So your interpretation solves a question that Mark intends to leave hanging in his text, all the while knowing that the proclamation of Christ has already reached his hearers / readers and so they would have the requisite context with which to properly interpret what he was doing.

So to insist that when Mark writes "oudeni ouden eipan" means that he is here saying that they never, ever told anyone anything is to go beyond what the both the context of the hearers, the syntax and the context of Mark permit.  You are saying more than the text says.

You are reading into it your presupposition that Mark contradicts Matthew and Luke on this point, when all Mark does is leave the story at the point of the women leaving the tomb.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 02:09:52 AM
You are misreading the aorist as conveying a gnomic or durative / habitual / intensive idea.  It does not.  No time frame is specified or can be derived from the use of the aorist in the case of Mark 16:8.  The tense simply does not indicate whether or not the action referred to occurred for 5 seconds or for 100 years or is an eternal truth.  It is in the nature of the aorist to be vague on this, and this vagueness of a historical "snapshot" is typical for the aorist and by far its most common use.
Do you see any indication in the Gospel of Mark that the women said anything to anyone?

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The context of the hearers, especially given that Mark's audience did know, in fact, that the women broke their silence would also indicate that you are misreading the statement in this case (if the women never told anyone, how would the early Christians have known?). 

I've answered that question before. Whether or not the women told anyone, Jesus was going to appear to the disciples in Galilee. The fact that Mark's hearers knew that Jesus was raised would lead them to believe that Jesus kept his word.

There is also the irony in the Gospel of Mark that when Jesus told people to be quiet about miracles, they usually told everyone they could; but now when the women are told that they are to speak, they are silent.

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Tense, too, indicates this. Translating or understanding the use of the aorist in a habitual, durative or intensive fashion is inappropriate to the tense in general.  It would be more appropriate to the imperfect or, more likely, the perfect.  The aorist only rarely has a gnomic sense in the NT, and there is no indication that it would have such here.  Rather, it's simply describing a completed action without implying any time period.
The aorist in v. 8 corresponds with the aorist in v. 7. What the angel commanded them, they did not do.

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The context of Mark indicates this as well.  Mark wrote to people who had heard of Jesus' resurrection and believed in him, and who could only have heard of this through the message of the women. 

No, that is not the only way the hearers would have known. As it is, when the women do speak in Luke, nobody believed them.

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So it is a dramatic, poignant ending to the book of Mark to leave the question hanging with the hearers -- did the women tell? 

The answer is, "No, they did not tell" (in the gospel of Mark). They are failures just as the male disciples failed to follow Jesus to the cross. Peter denied Jesus (and that point is hinted at in v. 7 when Peter is named).

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So your interpretation solves a question that Mark intends to leave hanging in his text, all the while knowing that the proclamation of Christ has already reached his hearers / readers and so they would have the requisite context with which to properly interpret what he was doing.
Exactly, all the disciples in Mark are utter failures -- including the women at the end. Jesus is faithful.

Quote
So to insist that when Mark writes "oudeni ouden eipan" means that he is here saying that they never, ever told anyone anything is to go beyond what the both the context of the hearers, the syntax and the context of Mark permit.  You are saying more than the text says.
I think that it is even a greater stretch to conclude that they did tell someone. There is nothing in Mark to indicate that.

Quote
You are reading into it your presupposition that Mark contradicts Matthew and Luke on this point, when all Mark does is leave the story at the point of the women leaving the tomb.
I am reading Mark on Mark's terms and not imposing the stories of Matthew or Luke into Mark.The first readers of Mark would not have known Matthew or Luke. We need to pretend that we don't know them, too, when we are exegeting Mark.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on August 03, 2007, 02:38:08 AM
(1)The first readers of Mark would not have known Matthew or Luke.
(2)We need to pretend that we don't know them, too, when we are exegeting Mark.

(1) Maybe, maybe not. That's nothing more than a hypothesis.

(2) No, we don't.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 03, 2007, 08:31:21 AM
Brian,

You have been answered, whether you like it or not.  The context of the hearers, the context of Mark, and the tense of the verb argue against your interpretation that Mark is here claiming that they never, ever told anyone anything (maybe they never spoke again?).  Mark is deliberately ambiguous on this point.  You are reading into it what isn't there in order to make a point you dearly want to uphold.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Eric_Swensson on August 03, 2007, 08:48:34 AM
(1)The first readers of Mark would not have known Matthew or Luke.
(2)We need to pretend that we don't know them, too, when we are exegeting Mark.

(1) Maybe, maybe not. That's nothing more than a hypothesis.

(2) No, we don't.

I agree with Richard. I also agree with Gadamer that you are on a fool's errand, probably sent there by Schleiermacher. Anyway, my question, Brian, is this. Is it essential to know what the original readers thought?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 03, 2007, 08:53:34 AM
Eric writes:
Is it essential to know what the original readers thought?

I respond:
I'm certain not Brian, but ... Wouldn't it help to have some idea about how the texts were read and interpreted? Think of our Constitution and laws. Think of how the Constitution was applied and understood. Yes, I'd say it is essential to be able to speculate intelligently on how a document was understood by the original readers - not to mention the original writers.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Eric_Swensson on August 03, 2007, 08:58:06 AM
Eric writes:
Is it essential to know what the original readers thought?

I respond:
I'm certain not Brian, but ... Wouldn't it help to have some idea about how the texts were read and interpreted? Think of our Constitution and laws. Think of how the Constitution was applied and understood. Yes, I'd say it is essential to be able to speculate intelligently on how a document was understood by the original readers - not to mention the original writers.

Well, since it is impossible for us to know what each other has written (that is not what I asked) we are in bad straits are we not? For example, I said "essential" which implies exactness and you use the term "speculate" which implies conjecture.

The exact point of my post I will wait for Brian to answer.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 03, 2007, 09:14:20 AM
"Essential"? No. Helpful. Yes. "Essential" to understand the political and social context of the original texts? Yes.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on August 03, 2007, 10:27:40 AM
"Essential"? No. Helpful. Yes. "Essential" to understand the political and social context of the original texts? Yes.

Not to quibble over words, but if I took you literally here, we'd have to say that exegetes like, oh, Augustine and Luther to take two, were unable to say anything intelligent about these words since they don't seem to have understood the political and social context of the original texts--certainly not in the sense that such a phrase is used today.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Charles_Austin on August 03, 2007, 10:52:58 AM
Richard Johnson (formerly known as Esteemed Moderator) writes:
Not to quibble over words, but if I took you literally here, we'd have to say that exegetes like, oh, Augustine and Luther to take two, were unable to say anything intelligent about these words since they don't seem to have understood the political and social context

I comment:
Those nobles had quite a lot of very intelligent, useful and Spirit-led things to say; and I sometimes ponder how much more wondrous things they might have said had they 1) lived longer, 2) known some of the the things we know, or 3) had cats for pets.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 11:57:38 AM
I agree with Richard. I also agree with Gadamer that you are on a fool's errand, probably sent there by Schleiermacher. Anyway, my question, Brian, is this. Is it essential to know what the original readers thought?
There are two basic ways of studying scriptures, according to Mark Allen Powell:

The field of biblical studies presently seems to be divided into two general camps: author-oriented scholars who use historical criticism and reader-oriented scholars who use literary criticism. There is something of a cold war between these -- not much outright hostility but not much interchange either. I remember a session of the Matthew Group at the Society of Biblical Literature where two our country's top scholars were scheduled to engage in dialogue on a common theme. Dan Via presented a literary-critical study of an important text; Robert Gundry responded with his own redaction-critical analysis of the same passage. It was interesting to hear both papers but at their conclusion neither scholar had much to say to the other. To quote Gundry: "I don't really understand what he was doing." And to quote Via: "I just can't look at a text like that."

Are they from two different worlds? And if they are, is there any problem with that?

One significant difference between these two approaches is the way they address diversity in interpretation. Both acknowledge this existential fact: people can and do interpret texts in different ways. But how should we account for this? Is it because some people understand the text rightly while others misunderstand it? Or is it simply that different people understand in different ways? The former answer tends to be favored by historical critics; the latter by literary critics. In an extreme rendering -- which is usually a caricature -- historical critics may be depicted as claiming that a text has only one correct interpretation: the meaning that was intended by the author. Or, again, in an extreme rendering -- also a caricature -- literary critics may be depicted as recognizing an infinite diversity of interpretations, none of which can be ruled out by any objective standard. Removing exaggeration, it is safe to say that scholars who favor authors maintain that some interpretations are right and others are clearly wrong, while scholars who favor readers think it is abusive to impose understandings that limit people's creativity or imagination. (Chasing the Eastern Star, pp. 1-2)

At least as I use the methods for exegesis, I don't see such a great difference between the historical-critical and the literary-critical methods. One seeks to understand what the author meant (or what the original readers understood) within the historical setting of the writing. The other seeks to understand what the author meant (or what readers understand) within the literary setting of the writing.

If one is just reading scriptures, e.g., for devotional purposes; or dealing just with reader-response criticism, where about the only question that matters is, "What does this mean to you?" then trying to get into the minds of the author and readers doesn't matter; but that is not exegesis, at least in the traditional sense of the word. Such a method, while a valid one, is very subjective. It does lead to multiple interpretations -- all being right because that's what each individual things it means. However, even with this method, if a second question is asked, "Why do you think it means that?" then one starts dealing with the critical methods.

Now, after thinking about your question with my fingers on the keys, the basic answers to why it is essential to try and understand what the first readers thought is, if we don't, we are likely to impose our own understandings onto the text. Then Bible study becomes a study of the interpreters rather than a study of the scriptures. The answers to the question, "What does this mean to you?" indicate more about the responder than what is in scriptures. Thus, at least in my mind, it becomes more of a self-study than a Bible study.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 03, 2007, 11:59:56 AM
Brian,

Have you noticed yet that with one hand, you assert that the goal is to reduce biases in order to be "objective" while at the same time with the other hand, you are continue to tell other people what biases they should have in order to read in what YOU consider to be appropriate ways?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 12:36:22 PM
Is it essential to know what the original readers thought?
Not essential, because we can't know for sure, but without seeking to understand the author's original intended meaning, we end up imposing our own thoughts onto the text -- and, as I responded to Dick Johnson, we turn a Bible study into a self-study. In addition, our hypotheses about the author's original, intended meanings provides some parameters around what interpretations are acceptable or not in the present day.

To return to Mark 16:1-8, I do not think that Mark's intentions were to deny the reality of the resurrection. Thus, an interpretation that does so, has strayed too far from the historical meaning of the text. I think that it is Mark's intention to show how the disciples failed Jesus. One can compare Mark's comments about the disciples with Matthew's. In Mark 4:40 they are people of "no faith". The parallel in Matthew 8:26 they are described as having "little faith". In Mark, the women say nothing. In Matthew, they tell the disciples. When read as a whole, I agree with Powell's statement about Mark's gospel:

Jesus keeps his disciples in spite of their complete faithlessness to him (Mark 14:26-27; 16:7). This is surely the most important point all. Jesus never rejects any of his followers, no matter how inadequate they turn out to be. Even when they desert him, deny him, and leave him to die, even then the message that goes out from the tomb on Easter orning is, in effect, "go, tell Peter and the others that I will be weaiting for them in Galilee -- I intend to see them there." This is frankly incredible! Why doesn't Jesus rise from the dead angry? Why wasn't ditching him in his hour of need "the last straw"? We might have expected him to fire the whole lot and find twelve new disicples who would prove somewhat worthy of him. (Loving Jesus, pp. 105-6)

I think that's a message that Mark intended his original audience to grasp -- or that they are grasped by this message as they hear and enter into the whole story of Jesus and his disciples throughout the book of Mark. The depth of this message is lost or at least watered down when one starts impossing Matthew and Luke's stories into Mark, such as understanding the women not as utter failures at the end. I don't think that Mark intended his audience to think that women eventually succeeded -- and we shouldn't think so either -- at least when studying Mark.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 12:37:44 PM
Have you noticed yet that with one hand, you assert that the goal is to reduce biases in order to be "objective" while at the same time with the other hand, you are continue to tell other people what biases they should have in order to read in what YOU consider to be appropriate ways?
No.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 03, 2007, 12:45:02 PM
Have you noticed yet that with one hand, you assert that the goal is to reduce biases in order to be "objective" while at the same time with the other hand, you are continue to tell other people what biases they should have in order to read in what YOU consider to be appropriate ways?
No.

Glad to be able to help you see yourself better then.  You're welcome.  8)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 03, 2007, 12:55:19 PM
I think that's a message that Mark intended his original audience to grasp -- or that they are grasped by this message as they hear and enter into the whole story of Jesus and his disciples throughout the book of Mark. The depth of this message is lost or at least watered down when one starts impossing Matthew and Luke's stories into Mark, such as understanding the women not as utter failures at the end. I don't think that Mark intended his audience to think that women eventually succeeded -- and we shouldn't think so either -- at least when studying Mark.

Yeah, except you don't have what Mark says to back you up since the way you are reading Mark is to say this: "...the women never said anything to anyone..." (insertion of the word "never") OR "...the women did not say anything to anyone and continued not to say anything to anyone" (perfective / intensive sense).  If this were intended, Mark could easily have plainly said the first or used the perfect to indicate the second in order to show that this is what he meant.  He did not.  Rather, he used the vague aorist (probably a Semiticism) which doesn't convey the sense of time you are reading into the statement.

So Mark is deliberately ambiguous on this point.  It is this ambiguity that points up the faithfulness of Jesus despite the failures of the women and even challenges the hearer directly by means of this ambiguity.  The ambiguity has the rhetorical function of involving the hearer by challenging them with the implicit question: "Jesus has promised and is faithful -- what do you say?"  This is a great rhetorical trick whereby Mark directly impacts the hearers and forces them to react to the promise of Jesus.  But it needs to be ambiguous to function like this rhetorically.

Perhaps another, more practical reason why he left it so ambiguous was that if he were to solve the ambituity like you want to solve the ambiguity, Brian, what he said would no longer have been true because the women did eventually tell others (fairly quickly, actually), and his audience would have known these events from the Christian proclamation.  Instead of saying what wasn't true, he spoke ambiguously in regards to the time frame and still made his point which would have been gutted either way by being unambiguously understood.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on August 03, 2007, 01:26:01 PM
But I'm just looking at the Gospel of Mark. For many years, that was the only gospel that Mark's community had.

So, Mark's Gospel fell out of the sky to some isolated community that had no other contact or relationship with other Christians -- apostles, missionaries, distant relatives, just plain visitors -- before, during, or after Mark's Gospel was inscribed?

spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 02:35:38 PM
But I'm just looking at the Gospel of Mark. For many years, that was the only gospel that Mark's community had.

So, Mark's Gospel fell out of the sky to some isolated community that had no other contact or relationship with other Christians -- apostles, missionaries, distant relatives, just plain visitors -- before, during, or after Mark's Gospel was inscribed?
I should have written, "that was the only written gospel that Mark's community had."
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 03:02:12 PM
Yeah, except you don't have what Mark says to back you up since the way you are reading Mark is to say this: "...the women never said anything to anyone..." (insertion of the word "never") OR "...the women did not say anything to anyone and continued not to say anything to anyone" (perfective / intensive sense).
I do not insert "never" nor "at first". I say, that Mark's story of Jesus ends with the women saying nothing to anyone. Whatever happened after his story ended is conjecture. (Even my post-ending ending that the disciples went back to Galilee and there they saw the risen Jesus.) The story ends in such a way that the hearers have to conclude the story. They know that it can't end with silence and fear.

Quote
So Mark is deliberately ambiguous on this point. 

He says quite clearly, they said nothing to anyone. That's not ambiguous. The story ends with silence ... and fear. (I also note that "they were afraid" is imperfect, implying a state of continually being afraid in the past.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Steven Tibbetts on August 03, 2007, 03:06:00 PM
I should have written, "that was the only written gospel that Mark's community had."

Even that is a supposition on your part.  

Granted, one that fits much current scholarship.  But not all, and certainly not older, classical scholarship.

pax, spt+
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Eric_Swensson on August 03, 2007, 03:07:27 PM
When read as a whole, I agree with Powell's statement about Mark's gospel:

Jesus keeps his disciples in spite of their complete faithlessness to him (Mark 14:26-27; 16:7). This is surely the most important point all. Jesus never rejects any of his followers, no matter how inadequate they turn out to be. Even when they desert him, deny him, and leave him to die, even then the message that goes out from the tomb on Easter orning is, in effect, "go, tell Peter and the others that I will be weaiting for them in Galilee -- I intend to see them there." This is frankly incredible! Why doesn't Jesus rise from the dead angry? Why wasn't ditching him in his hour of need "the last straw"? We might have expected him to fire the whole lot and find twelve new disicples who would prove somewhat worthy of him. (Loving Jesus, pp. 105-6)

I think that's a message that Mark intended his original audience to grasp -- or that they are grasped by this message as they hear and enter into the whole story of Jesus and his disciples throughout the book of Mark. The depth of this message is lost or at least watered down when one starts impossing Matthew and Luke's stories into Mark, such as understanding the women not as utter failures at the end. I don't think that Mark intended his audience to think that women eventually succeeded -- and we shouldn't think so either -- at least when studying Mark.

What message are we grasped by, that Jesus does not reject any of his disciples?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Mike Bennett on August 03, 2007, 03:08:24 PM
Where do I learn of such an astonishing thing as the faithfulness of God to unfaithful, sinful believers?  The craziest optimist couldn't make it up, and I can't rely on the witness of Scripture?
Read the gospel of Mark. Assumption one about reading scriptures: the people were expected to read through the entire book; not just pick and choose parts of it. Assumption two about reading scriptures: the people were expected to read it from start to finish, not jump around. So, read through the gospel and note especially how the disciples are characterized in this gospel.

Brian, I was reading books of the Bible at one sitting long before I ever heard your name.  Mark has been one of them, several times. So where, in Mark, if I can't rely on the trustworthiness of Scripture's accounts, do I get such a wild and crazy idea as resurrection of the dead?  The resurrection is what I was trying to find support for before the "faithfulness" red herring was dragged across the path and I followed it like a dedicated but stoopid bloodhound.  

Mike Bennett ???
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Eric_Swensson on August 03, 2007, 03:12:16 PM
Powell writes:

Jesus keeps his disciples in spite of their complete faithlessness to him (Mark 14:26-27; 16:7). This is surely the most important point all. Jesus never rejects any of his followers, no matter how inadequate they turn out to be. Even when they desert him, deny him, and leave him to die, even then the message that goes out from the tomb on Easter orning is, in effect, "go, tell Peter and the others that I will be weaiting for them in Galilee -- I intend to see them there." This is frankly incredible! Why doesn't Jesus rise from the dead angry? Why wasn't ditching him in his hour of need "the last straw"? We might have expected him to fire the whole lot and find twelve new disicples who would prove somewhat worthy of him. (Loving Jesus, pp. 105-6)

So, here is the new gospel of incusiveness: the most important thing is that Jesus didn't rise from the grave angry, not that he rose from the grave for our justification (Rom 4:25).
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 03:13:13 PM
What message are we grasped by, that Jesus does not reject any of his disciples?
Jesus remains faithful to those he has called. Disciples can count on Jesus to fulfill his promises even when they don't. Even Jesus' word that all would fall away (Mk 14:27) will prove to be true, even though Peter disputes that he would ever leave Jesus. (Peter's word isn't as certain as Jesus'.)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 03, 2007, 03:14:02 PM
Yeah, except you don't have what Mark says to back you up since the way you are reading Mark is to say this: "...the women never said anything to anyone..." (insertion of the word "never") OR "...the women did not say anything to anyone and continued not to say anything to anyone" (perfective / intensive sense).
I do not insert "never" nor "at first". I say, that Mark's story of Jesus ends with the women saying nothing to anyone. Whatever happened after his story ended is conjecture. (Even my post-ending ending that the disciples went back to Galilee and there they saw the risen Jesus.) The story ends in such a way that the hearers have to conclude the story. They know that it can't end with silence and fear.

Quote
So Mark is deliberately ambiguous on this point. 

He says quite clearly, they said nothing to anyone. That's not ambiguous. The story ends with silence ... and fear. (I also note that "they were afraid" is imperfect, implying a state of continually being afraid in the past.)

Yep, Mark writes that as the women "fled" from the tomb, they said nothing to anyone.  How long such silence lasted is not indicated and there is no indication that reading in any time period for their silence is appropriate.

So the duration of their silence as they fled from the tomb is ambiguous, but they fact that they fled from the tomb without saying anything to anyone is not.

Glad we agree.

As to the imperfective of fear, you're right.  That does give a sense that they were continuing to fear.  Makes me think of a group huddled in an upper room for fear of the Jews, to be honest.  However, since the narrative abruptly ends after that point, the length of their continuing fear is also indeterminate as we simply don't have anything else to go on.  I could easily say that "I was continually afraid of crime in Nairobi...", but this doesn't necessarily mean that I continued for the rest of my life to be afraid of the crime in Nairobi.

But I do agree that there is a contrast between the aoristic sense of the verb "to say / tell" and the imperfective form of the verb "to be afraid".  Seems like Mark might be wanting to contrast the two phenomena where one continues longer than the other.

Thanks for the supporting argument that highlights the aoristic "snapshot" sense of eipan (to tell / say) as indicating indeterminate time.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 03:16:27 PM
I should have written, "that was the only written gospel that Mark's community had."

Even that is a supposition on your part.  

Granted, one that fits much current scholarship.  But not all, and certainly not older, classical scholarship.
It seems to make more sense to believe that Mark was written first and ended with the women's silence and fear, which, if Matthew and Luke were using, revised that ending by having the women speak.

The other option (a classical one) is to believe that Matthew was written first, then Mark wrote an abridged version of it; but then we have to wonder why did Mark silence the women at the end if he had a source that where they spoke -- and even saw and heard the risen Jesus?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 03:18:03 PM
Brian, I was reading books of the Bible at one sitting long before I ever heard your name.  Mark has been one of them, several times. So where, in Mark, if I can't rely on the trustworthiness of Scripture's accounts, do I get such a wild and crazy idea as resurrection of the dead?  The resurrection is what I was trying to find support for before the "faithfulness" red herring was dragged across the path and I followed it like a dedicated but stoopid bloodhound.  
Jesus said it (e.g., Mark 14:28), it will happen. Jesus keeps his word.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 03:22:28 PM
Thanks for the supporting argument that highlights the aoristic "snapshot" sense of eipan (to tell / say) as indicating indeterminate time.
However, considering Mark's poor use of Greek, he may not know all the implication of the tenses. I'm also not sure that there is an imperfect or perfect form for eipon. We have such a convoluted grammar in regards to eipon -- with irregular endings, and being used as the aorist for a completely different verb, lego. (There are imperfect forms for lego that are used in scriptures.)

Would you agree with me that Mark's story ends with silence? That the women disobey the angel's command to go and tell?
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 03, 2007, 04:08:42 PM
However, considering Mark's poor use of Greek, he may not know all the implication of the tenses.

Wow -- the text itself does not say what you think it should say, so you blame the author's knowledge of Greek?  And previously you have been all other folks on this board for not actually reading what the text says (at least according to you)?!?!   ???

So much for an attempt to get rid of biases.  Thanks for proving my point about reading with doctrines, by-the-by.

More than passing strange.

Naah.  I'll just take the Mark knew what he was doing, thank you very much.  There isn't even any credible variant reading here (except that one Old Latin manuscript [k] omitted the entirety of the phrase).

[[BTW:  εἶπον is used to cover all other tenses of λέγω other than the present and imperfect which includes the aorist and the perfect.  If he wanted an imperfect, Mark would have used the imperfect of λέγω just like he did in 16:3.  I do know that the perfect for εἶπον (and so λέγω) is "εἴρηκα", and I can't even write a Gospel in Greek much less persuade folks to canonize it.]]

Would you agree with me that Mark's story ends with silence? That the women disobey the angel's command to go and tell?

I agree that the story ends with the women saying nothing to anyone as they fled from the tomb.  What happened when they reached the disciples Mark doesn't say.  It's left ambiguous as to whether or not they told the disciples and Peter since the story does end with their silence as they fled from the tomb.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Mike Bennett on August 03, 2007, 05:13:56 PM


Would you agree with me that Mark's story ends with silence? That the women disobey the angel's command to go and tell?

I agree that the story ends with the women saying nothing to anyone as they fled from the tomb.  What happened when they reached the disciples Mark doesn't say.  It's left ambiguous as to whether or not they told the disciples and Peter since the story does end with their silence as they fled from the tomb.

Have we all conceded that the Mark 16 the Church has read for 2,000 years is not all real, so that the real Gospel of Mark ends at 16:8?  So that verses 9 and 10, which explicitly say that Mary Magdalene "went and reported to those who had been with Him" are useless to us in figuring out whether the silence in verse 8 was forever, or only while they were fleeing, or something in between?  Seems sort of a butt-headed way to read anything.   :o

Mike Bennett
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 03, 2007, 05:35:25 PM


Would you agree with me that Mark's story ends with silence? That the women disobey the angel's command to go and tell?

I agree that the story ends with the women saying nothing to anyone as they fled from the tomb.  What happened when they reached the disciples Mark doesn't say.  It's left ambiguous as to whether or not they told the disciples and Peter since the story does end with their silence as they fled from the tomb.

Have we all conceded that the Mark 16 the Church has read for 2,000 years is not all real, so that the real Gospel of Mark ends at 16:8?  So that verses 9 and 10, which explicitly say that Mary Magdalene "went and reported to those who had been with Him" are useless to us in figuring out whether the silence in verse 8 was forever, or only while they were fleeing, or something in between?  Seems sort of a butt-headed way to read anything.   :o

Mike Bennett

No, I think there's something to be said for the canonical form of the text.  However, there is a real textual issue here where vs. 8 does seem to be the ending of the original text.  I do not believe that this renders what follows as un-biblical or non-canonical, but it does seem to say that either the original text stopped at vs. 8 or that the rest was lost.  Can we still profitably use what follows?  Sure.  The church has accepted it into her canon, and I think that Luther was right to quote Mark 16:16 in support of baptism.  But neither ending flows well from the rest of the text of Mark and so when looking at how Mark portrays the story overall, I think this should be recognized. 

In fact, I think that an ending of the text at vs. 8 makes great sense with what Mark is trying to do -- it make what Jesus did present and real among those who hear the gospel read and draws the hearer / reader into the story as part of an ongoing story of Jesus with us.

Dr. James Voelz preached a great sermon a year or so ago at Concordia Seminary Chapel on this text, and his portrayal of Mark with the ending at vs. 8 was extremely powerful.  The sermon lasted all of 4 minutes or so but was one of the most impactful sermons I have heard.

But in any case, relying on something that is poorly attested textually doesn't help me out much in my discussion with Brian.   ;)
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 05:35:33 PM
Wow -- the text itself does not say what you think it should say,
It says what I've said it says: "They said nothing to anyone."

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Naah.  I'll just take the Mark knew what he was doing, thank you very much.  

I've argued that Mark knew what he was doing. The silent ending fits very well with the rest of his narrative of Jesus and the disciples.

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I agree that the story ends with the women saying nothing to anyone as they fled from the tomb.  

That interpretation (with "as") would use a genitive absolute.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 05:40:19 PM
In fact, I think that an ending of the text at vs. 8 makes great sense with what Mark is trying to do -- it make what Jesus did present and real among those who hear the gospel read and draws the hearer / reader into the story as part of an ongoing story of Jesus with us.
I agree with you about that.

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But in any case, relying on something that is poorly attested textually doesn't help me out much in my discussion with Brian.   ;)
Agreed. When studying Mark's narrative of Jesus, 16:9-20 have to be excluded. Besides the textual support that they are not original, there are also internal arguments, e.g., a high number of words found only in 9-20, but absent from the rest of the gospel, that helps argue against it being part of "Mark's" original gospel.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: scott3 on August 03, 2007, 05:41:20 PM
Wow -- the text itself does not say what you think it should say,
It says what I've said it says: "They said nothing to anyone."

Quote
Naah.  I'll just take the Mark knew what he was doing, thank you very much.  

I've argued that Mark knew what he was doing. The silent ending fits very well with the rest of his narrative of Jesus and the disciples.

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I agree that the story ends with the women saying nothing to anyone as they fled from the tomb.  

That interpretation (with "as") would use a genitive absolute.

Nope re: the genitive absolute.  The aorist places the action at the point where it says it happened.  Coincidentally, at the same time that the previous aorist says it happened -- the aorist of "fled".

What you're saying is that there's a gnomic or perfective sense to the aorist where the sense would be that they never said anything to anyone or that they continued to keep their mouths shut after they fled.  This sense simply isn't present.  The aorist doesn't allow you to make these imaginative leaps.

And also, no, you have not most recently argued that Mark knew what he was doing.  You said: "However, considering Mark's poor use of Greek, he may not know all the implication of the tenses."  Now you are contradicting what you just said.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 03, 2007, 05:52:26 PM
And also, no, you have not most recently argued that Mark knew what he was doing.  You said: "However, considering Mark's poor use of Greek, he may not know all the implication of the tenses."  Now you are contradicting what you just said.
Knowing what he means to say -- and knowing what he wants the words do to the hearers, is not the same thing as knowing proper Greek grammar. I've heard a lot of people use double negatives as a way to intensify the negative, even though that is not proper English grammar.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Richard Johnson on August 04, 2007, 01:06:00 AM
The answers to the question, "What does this mean to you?" indicate more about the responder than what is in scriptures. Thus, at least in my mind, it becomes more of a self-study than a Bible study.

If you think the only alternative to exegetical study that depends on "higher criticism" in reading the Bible is "What does this mean to you?", then you really need to read a bit more widely. I would suggest you start with some of the writings of Brevard Childs.
Title: Re: The Gospels -- Jesus Remembered
Post by: Brian Stoffregen on August 04, 2007, 01:33:07 AM
If you think the only alternative to exegetical study that depends on "higher criticism" in reading the Bible is "What does this mean to you?", then you really need to read a bit more widely. I would suggest you start with some of the writings of Brevard Childs.
I've read him. I've enjoyed him. "Higher criticism" uses methods to try and discern what the author meant when originally writing the material as the basis for interpreting what the text means for us today. "Literary criticism" uses methods to try and discern meanings from the literature as we have them, and the historical context often has little or no influence.

Canon criticism, which Childs espouses, I think, is part of that. It is not concerned with the original writings, but those writings as we have them in the Canon. For example, as I recall, he doesn't care much about dividing Isaiah into three different books, but studying the book as we have it in scriptures. (One could do the same with canonical Mark with the longer addition.) I believe that he even looks at the order of the books as they were placed in the canon to be significant -- and I think it is, to some extent. There are reasons why Matthew is placed first in the New Testament -- and Revelation last.

Reader-response criticism, which Powell writes about, is another part of literary criticism. It's under this narrow method that the question: "What does this mean to you?" arises -- which I still maintain is primarily a self-study rather than exegeting scriptures. It is a method that can lead to as many different interpretations as there are people in the room. I think that a combination (which is more of what Powell actually does) is helpful. The historical-critical methods, and canonical critical findings, limit what readers may legitimately determine are meanings of a text.